Archives for wine



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.

Read More »



Wine at the Opera

At the opera last night we pre-ordered a glass of wine for the first intermission.  We paid before the opera and the glass was at the prearranged place after Act 1.  We’ve done this many times in Germany and increasingly in the U.S.  Why do the opera houses do this?

Competitive pressure is absent—they have a monopoly on drink/food at intermission.  Despite this absence, providing this opportunity raises the house’s profits.  Without the usual long wait at intermission, more customers will buy food/drink—so revenue increases.  This policy puts less pressure on workers—they don’t have to rush during intermission to serve people; in the long run this reduces the wage the opera house has to pay for equal-skilled labor—costs are reduced.  Everybody wins—and I’m surprised this policy isn’t more widespread.



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.  Read More »



Wine: Very Liquid

Wine Spectator includes a feature (subscription required) on Nicolás Catena, who received the magazine’s Distinguished Service Award for 2012.  His online bio states, “One year, Domingo [Nicolás’ father] realized that it would cost him more to harvest than to leave the fruit on the vines. He asked his twenty-two-year-old son Nicolás, a recent Ph.D. graduate in economics, what to do about such a dilemma. Nicolás advised him not to harvest.”  You don’t need a Ph.D. to see the sense of Nicolás’ advice — if price is too low to cover average variable cost, shut down.  Sadly, “Domingo could not follow his son’s advice with a clear conscience and picked anyway.”  No doubt the family vineyard lost even more money than if Domingo had listened to his son.



FREAK-est Links

1. Is the Chicago law and economics program too successful?

2. The Judgment of Princeton: more wine economics if you liked our wine podcast.

3. An elaborate bad customer service prank (video) from Belgium. (HT: Julian Morrow)

4. Some ambient noise improves creative cognition. (HT: JCB)

5. How Americans spend on alcohol: more at bars than at liquor stores.

6. Will rising temperatures bring more violent crime?



The Days of Wine and Mouses: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

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 below.) 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. Read More »



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? Read More »



Do We Drink Because We’re Monogamous, or Are We Monogamous Because We Drink?

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast is called “Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better?” It features some research presented by the American Association of Wine Economists, whose members include Karl Storchmann, managing editor of the group’s Journal of Wine Economics.

Storchmann wrote to us the other day about an interesting working paper the AAWE has just posted: “Women or Wine? Monogamy and Alcohol,” by Mara Squicciarini and Jo Swinnen. Read More »