Our Freakonomics Radio project includes a regular podcast and Marketplace segment. But twice a year, we also produce a set of five one-hour specials that play on public-radio stations across the country. Find a station near you.
Season 2, Episode 1
When you take a sip of Cabernet, what are you tasting? the grape? the tannins? the oak barrel? Or is it the price?
Believe it or not, the most dominant flavor may be the dollars. Thanks to the work of some intrepid and wine-obsessed researchers (yes, there is an American Association of Wine Economists), we have a new understanding of the relationship between wine, critics, and consumers.
One of these researchers is Robin Goldstein, whose paper detailing more than 6,000 blind tastings reaches the conclusion that “individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine.”
Why, then, do we pay so much attention to critics and connoisseurs who tell us otherwise? That’s the question we set out to answer. You’ll hear from Steve Levitt, who admits his palate is “underdeveloped,” about a wine stunt he pulled on his elders at Harvard’s Society of Fellows; and wine broker Brian DiMarco pulled a stunt of his own on his wine-savvy employees.
Also in this hour, Stephen Dubner witnesses something that would doom any dining experience: while eating at a restaurant, a customer one table away was served a salad with a dead mouse in it. How does a business respond in the face of such a disaster?
Vincent Herbert, the CEO of the restaurant in question, Le Pain Quotidien, explains what happened and how he coped. Crisis-control expert Andrew Gowers gives us some insight from facing the public on behalf of Lehman Brothers, post-collapse, and BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.