A taste test in Great Britain shows that most people can’t tell the difference between expensive and inexpensive wines. The test, conducted by experimental psychologist Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, asked more than 500 people to sample two glasses of wine.
In a series of blind tests, members of the public correctly identified whether they were drinking a cheap or expensive wine half the time – a success rate that is no better than chance.
The researchers selected eight cheap wines for the experiment – four whites and four reds. With the exception of a bottle of champagne, all cost less than £5.
They then matched each cheap wine with a more expensive bottle made from the same grape variety and produced in the same part of the world.
The ‘quality’ wines ranged in price from £9.49 to £29.99.
While the media are positioning this as an argument that there’s not a discernible difference between cheap and expensive wine. I’d argue instead that it could just as well mean price is not a meaningful determinate in quality. That is, there are good cheap wines and bad expensive wines.
Guy Woodward, editor of Decanter, offered his own less-than-satisfying explanation. He pointed out that part of the pleasure of drinking expensive wine was knowing it is expensive — which is more of a commentary on human nature than wine. And then this:
“More expensive wines are often less obvious. They may not have the bold fruity flavors of cheaper wines – they will be more nuanced and they may not be as sweet. People may not appreciate the more complex flavors.”
Which is both entirely reasonable and entirely snooty. In other words, very British, indeed.