Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Subjectivity of Wine

Jonah Lehrer over at recently wrote a fascinating piece entitled the Subectivity of Wine. The article delves into the intriguing question of how much we are fooling ourselves when throwing down large sums of money for 'good' wine. I can't say the experiments he cites are too much of a shock. The power of the mind and placebos is well established. Oftentimes people don't even notice the complete lack of alcohol in an alcoholic drink, so it's not too surprising that people have trouble differentiating between the quality of those that do contain the bitter substance of alcohol within.

The most fascinating part was the so called 'experts' who could not even recognize that they were being served white wine. Of course, this this a great example of the power of the mind since they saw red wine and they were told they were drinking red wine, but still for none of these tasters who think of themselves as having such astute palates to recognize this is remarkable. After reading this it reminded me of how France's national wine tasting refuses to cover up labels when tasting wine.

Personally I've never been one to spend a great deal of money on wine, particularly at a restaurant. When I stop to think about it--am I really getting an extra $35-55 worth of enjoyment out of a moderately priced wine than I am out of the house wine? Not to say that I can't appreciate a great wine (at least I think I can, but this article casts doubts on that previous assumption), it's just about the actual dollar value of that appreciation. That of course makes sense in conjunction with wine's connotation with the wealthy since millionaires are likely going to be much less discerning over $20-30 spent.

I think I'm also much more likely to appreciate a $7-10 glass of beer (so long as its not a lager/light beer) than I am a $7-10 glass of wine. Perhaps that is just me and my unsophisticated pallete, but I remember well what an Italian sommelier once told me: the most popular wine in Italy is not a robust red from Chianti or delicate crisp white from Liguri, it is a brand of boxed cooking wine (and no, it is not just used for cooking).

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