Price and predjudice

I have been trying to avoid this topic, hoping it would go away, but it just won’t.

Recently there have been a spate of articles claiming that the price of a wine has an effect on the drinker’s perception of how good it is. Reading the research study findings does not exactly bear out this conclusion, but almost every article that I have seen, and there have been many of them over the past week, makes the leap.

One very excellent exception is the article at Vinography entitled “Science Confirms Gold Plated Wine Bottles Are Best” that actually addresses how the study was done and what conclusions can be drawn. Imagine that, actual analysis. I highly recommend visiting the site and reading the entire article.

One thing that isn’t mentioned in the Vinography dismantling of the sloppy and lazy reporting is the concept of perceived value. Why do we buy name brand peas instead of the generic store brand? Most people would claim that they taste better, but it is doubtful they could tell the difference in a blind taste test. I would submit, however, that most seasoned wine drinkers could tell the difference between most $3 wines and a decent $20 bottle. But that doesn’t make for good headlines.

Read the Vinography article’s description of the tasting conditions which the subjects were forced to endure while attempting to perceive the quality of a minuscule sample of wine and imagine trying to do so yourself. Under those conditions, with very few visual clues, and a sample that wasn’t large enough to either nose or taste properly, being told the price would be about the only indicator of quality one would have left.

Given the technology available to do this sort of research, it isn’t surprising that the tasting conditions were so abysmal. Given the state of our media, the fact that the reporting was abysmal as well, is also not a surprise. Nor is it a surprise that making wine drinkers appear to be clueless snobs was easier than reading the report.

Enough ranting, I’m off to get the cheapest jug wine I can find to start refilling my expensive empties. Being a clueless wine snob, I’m sure that I can fool myself into enjoying it.

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