Cheap wine in a fancy bottle

Cornell University researcher Brian Wanskin arranged to give diners at a prix-fixe restaurant a complimentary glass of wine. The diners were shown the bottle before the wine was poured into their glass. Some of the diners were shown a wine bottle apparently from a fancy California winery called "Noah's Winery." Others were shown a bottle from a North Dakota winery. But in all cases the wine they were served was actually the same. It was a cheap Charles Shaw Cabernet (familiar to Trader Joes shoppers as "two-buck chuck").

Predictably, the diners seemed to appreciate the wine and their meal more when told that they were drinking a high-class California wine, as measured by how long they lingered at the table and how much food they ate.

I guess no one associates North Dakota with fine wine. Obviously they've never tried North Dakota Pumpkin Wine!

Wanskin concludes that, "Within limits, a food expected to taste good will taste good, and a food expected to taste bad will taste bad."

My theory with wine has always been that while there may be a noticeable difference between a $2 and a $15 bottle of wine, once you get over $15, there's really no appreciable improvement. People just expect very expensive wine to taste better, so they convince themselves that it does taste better. (via New Scientist blog)

Food Science

Posted on Wed Aug 08, 2007


Sounds like the McDonald's Study just released the other day.

Kids age 3-5 were given identical food wrapped plain or wrapped in Mickey D wrappers. The Mickey D's wrapped food tasted better, of course.

Forum discussion here:
Posted by Tah  in  Idaho (Yes, Idaho)  on  Wed Aug 08, 2007  at  03:38 PM
As someone who's nose doesn't work right, my sense of taste is very bland. (Insert joke here!) So I rarely can tell the difference between colas, coffee, tea, wine, fancy foods, etc. When I was in Germany I learned to like German Mosel wines, those I can normally taste, and so I will order that if I am having wine, regardless of fish or meat. I read many years ago that taste was 90% smell, but I guess a large part of the remaining 10% is sight. I don't feel so bad with all these people spending big bucks for something not worth the price.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Wed Aug 08, 2007  at  05:00 PM
My current theory about wine is that while there really is good wine and bad wine, there isn't much correlation between quality of wine and price. Some of the best wines I've ever had were 2 or 3 dollars per bottle, and some of the worst were $15 per bottle or more (I've never tried the ones that cost hundreds of dollars per bottle, and I don't plan to).
Posted by Big Gary  in  Punkin Center, Texas  on  Wed Aug 08, 2007  at  06:11 PM
Alex, you da' man! Even though I used to be able to afford such extras, I could never bet myself to do so. I was always of the same opinion you posted... you get to a certain price tag, and after that, it's all flash... Now I just settle for Amber Bock, or Jack Daniels.
Posted by Christopher  in  Joplin, Missouri  on  Wed Aug 08, 2007  at  07:40 PM
Anything that's from a place called a 'Winery' is likely to be crap. No decent wine would come from anything calling itself a winery. They;re called 'vineyards'. 'Winery' sounds like some cheap knock-off term someone came up with for cheapt domestic house wine.
Posted by Renquist  in  Glasgow, Scotland  on  Wed Aug 08, 2007  at  09:00 PM
A vineyard is where the grapes for winemaking are grown, but a winery is where the wine itself is made. The two are not necessarily the same. A lot of wineries don't grow their own grapes. I've seen quite a few places include both terms in their name.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Aug 09, 2007  at  01:02 AM
Well I don't drink wine (t-total) but I know my tastebuds work well and I've been to fancy restaurants, expecting high quality food, but been disappointed. I think a good number of people don't have particularily good taste buds, which is why people like strongly flavoured foods and consider "plain" chicken bland and whack a load of pepper on it. So it doesn't suprise me that most people wouldn't be able to tell hi quality wine from average plonk.
Posted by mr royale  in  Bristol, England  on  Thu Aug 09, 2007  at  03:36 AM
I had the same experience as Big Gary. The best wine I've ever had was a Mosel rose which I bought for one euro in France. (I think it was reduced.....). On the other hand, my friend bought a ruinously expensive pink champagne which tasted foul.

There's a place called Vinapolis in London, where you can go and be taught how to taste wine, and then taste lots of wines - it does make you really appreciate the difference. (Avoid Chinese wine at all costs).
Posted by Nona  in  London  on  Thu Aug 09, 2007  at  07:12 AM
Penn & Teller did this on Bullshit, using bottled water. The printed up a bunch of ridiculous labels (Essence of Kitten Urine - with yellow food coloring, and a fake rubber spider inside the bottle, etc) to put on empty bottles, and filled them from the garden hose behind the restaraunt. Then they had a "water steward" present them with a flourish. Everyone thought they were just wonderful. (The blind taste test between expensive bottled water and New York City tap water had 75% preferring the tape water.)

(They later did another episode with food prepared by someone with virtually no cooking experience, using stuff bought from a dollar store, but served in an upscale restaraunt. Much the same results.)

Food, wine, water, and audio equipment are all the same - you get exactly what you expect.
Posted by Terry Austin  in  Surf City USA  on  Thu Aug 09, 2007  at  11:15 AM
A taste test between NYC tap water and bottled water probably doesn't mean much, since NYC has always been known to have exceptionally good tap water (at least, it used to be known for that). But here in San Diego, the tap water really tastes awful.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Fri Aug 10, 2007  at  10:42 AM

Charles Shaw Chardonnay, better known as "Two Buck Chuck," beat hundreds of other wines and was named the top prize in a prestigious tasting competition in California.

Two Buck Chuck, even in blind (rather than misleading) comparisons, does apparently taste better.

-Wine Maker and Non-Drinker
Posted by Splarka  on  Sat Aug 11, 2007  at  10:12 PM
I can taste the difference between tap water and bottled water. Tap water is nasty.
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Wed Aug 15, 2007  at  10:24 AM
Commenting is no longer available in this channel entry.