Further Evidence That Wine Tasting Is Wildly Subjective

A few years ago, we did a podcast on whether expensive wine tastes better. There is now further evidence that the answer to that question is no -- even for elite wine critics. Winemaker Robert Hodgson recently collaborated with the California State Fair wine competition on a little wine-tasting experiment:

Each panel of four judges would be presented with their usual "flight" of samples to sniff, sip and slurp. But some wines would be presented to the panel three times, poured from the same bottle each time. The results would be compiled and analysed to see whether wine testing really is scientific.

The first experiment took place in 2005. The last was in Sacramento earlier this month. Hodgson's findings have stunned the wine industry. Over the years he has shown again and again that even trained, professional palates are terrible at judging wine.

Jimmy Kimmel Thinks Like a Freak

Starbucks recently came out with an ultra-high end cup of coffee. Wondering whether that cup of coffee was really worth $7, Kimmel took to the streets and ran some experiments.  He didn’t however, do what you might expect.  Rather, he pulled a page out of the old wine tasting experiment I ran twenty years ago. It is definitely worth watching. 

The Days of Wine and Mouses

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?

In Vino Veritas, Sort Of

This week on Freakonomics Radio’s Marketplace segment, we ask a simple question about a simple product: wine. It’s the quintessential holiday party gift, but which one should you buy? One would assume that wine, like most other products, follows basic price theory: you get what you pay for. But according to a growing body of […]