The Days of Wine and Mouses (Ep. 64)
Season 2, Episode 1
We have just released a new series of five one-hour Freakonomics Radio specials to public-radio stations across the country. (Check here for your local station.) These new shows are what might best be called “mashupdates” — that is, mashups of earlier podcasts that have also been updated with new interviews, etc.
If you are a charter subscriber to our podcast (remember this one on the dangers of safety, or this one on the obesity epidemic?), then some of this material will be familiar to you. If you are one of the people who have heard these new shows on the radio and wondered when they’d hit the podcast stream — well, that time is now. We’ll be releasing all five hours over the next ten weeks.
This first episode is called “The Days of Wine and Mouses.” (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript here.) Here’s what you’ll be hearing:
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, I witness an incident in a restaurant that would doom any dining experience: 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.