Culture

What If I Told You That Expensive Bottle of Burgundy...

Photo via: Flickr

Photo via: Flickr

Here’s another dent in the “wine expert” status game, from Money:

A new study in the Journal of Marketing Research confirms what prior research (and, in some cases, gut feeling) has told us for years: Most people can’t really taste the difference between cheap and expensive wine.

These new findings, by INSEAD marketing professor Hilke Plassmann and University of Bonn neuroscience professor Bernd Weber, go a step further than previous studies in explaining why people get more enjoyment from a wine they’re told is expensive and less pleasure from one they’re told is cheap—even if they are actually drinking the same wine.

“Expectations truly influence neurobiological responses,” write the authors.

But how much we’re swayed by that influence ranges from person to person. One key factor, the researchers found, is the structure of your brain. Everyone is somewhat suggestible to the placebo effect from being told wine is cheap or expensive, but some brains are more suggestible than others.

As critical as I am of “wine experts,” I do think certain wines are obviously cheap. The low-end stuff usually tastes like kids’ grape juice with some ethanol added to it: simple, cloying, flat, and, well, cheap. That’s at the really far end of the scale, however. In my experience, any wine $10 a bottle and over is not likely to have that grape-juice swill flavor.

Nevertheless, as this article notes and as everyone knew already, the power of suggestion is considerable. I’m sure that, given the right circumstances and the right words, we all could be fooled into thinking that Welch’s with rubbing alcohol mixed into it was an expensive Syrah.