Wine Talk

Snooth User: Nancy Hawks Miller

Wine Lovers Can't Tell the Difference Between Cheap & Expensive Wine

Posted by Nancy Hawks Miller, Apr 14, 2011.

Anyone see the original article on this one? As Warren asks, which wines? Which consumers? Good pot stirrer! http://wineforspicewarrenedwardes.b...


Reply by zippyxx, Apr 14, 2011.

Sometimes there is no difference. Sometimes the cheap wines are better than the expensive.  Price is a poor criteria to use

Reply by zufrieden, Apr 14, 2011.

Precisely.  If the wines provide the same hedonistic fare (at least, there is an absence of pain from both in the epicurean sense) then you may not distinguish any qualitative difference.  And that's a good thing.

I think what the writers probably mean (and I'm guessing - having not yet read the article) is that price is not the best indicator of quality (although it does indicate what people want).

Reply by dmcker, Apr 14, 2011.

From Warren Edwardes' blog off that link:

According to The University of Hertfordshire's Research blog "Wine drinkers unable to tell the difference between expensive and cheap wines":

According to a study released today by psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman, people are unable to tell the difference between expensive and inexpensive wines.  A total pf 578 participants at the Edinburgh Science Festival took part in a ‘blind’ taste challenge. They were offered a range of red and white wines costing less then £5 and other vintages prices between £10 and £30.  Purely by the laws of chance, they should have been able to make a correct guess 50 per cent of the time.  This was exactly the level of accuracy seen, demonstrating that the volunteers could not distinguish between wines by taste alone.  Professor Wiseman said: “These are remarkable results. People were unable to tell expensive from inexpensive wines.  “In these times of financial hardship the message is clear – the inexpensive wines tasted the same as their expensive counterparts.”  The wines tested included cheap and expensive brands of sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, chardonnay, ­merlot, rioja, shiraz and claret. Two champagne labels costing £17.61 and £29.99 were also compared.

Now should we have a competition on how many fallacies we can detect, merely from this survey summary, with the 'research' methodology Wiseman employed? Nice conversation piece around the dinner table, but not exactly 'scientific'. Brings to mind an old computer industry chestnut: GIGO...
Reply by Nancy Hawks Miller, Apr 15, 2011.

Yeah, not scientific at all and not enough info. I wish he'd provided a link to the actual study. Just to be different, I'm going to say price does make a difference most of the time as long as you're comparing apples with apples. A white Zin devotee is never going to give Pio Cesare a good review - they're going to say "That wine was sour!" ;-)  Love the comments!


Reply by wedwardes, Apr 17, 2011.

No sign of the actual study I am afraid.


Reply by lgcota, Apr 17, 2011.

It was a statistical study among a random sample of volunteers. We cannot expect a good ability to discriminate between 'cheap' and 'expensive' as the metric for 'good' and 'bad' among the average joe.

Such a study is indeed scientific, aind it points to the inability of untrained people to discriminate between wines. Its findings, however, were quite predictable.

Reply by TL1053, Apr 17, 2011.

Wine preference is extremely subjective, price can have a relationship to quality, but that is not always the case.  There are always surprise "bargain" wines

Reply by Andrew46, Apr 17, 2011.

It seems easy enough to design a study to come out with whatever outcome you like with wine tasting.  Without the details of the study, this is difficult to discuss in a meaningful way.  Lots of factors play into prefference.  For example:

  1. with or without food?
  2. if with food, which food for which wine?
  3. all wines are the same age?
  4. are some of the expensive wines wines that need to be aged to show best?
  5. decanting - are the wines tasted PNP or after a decant?

For example, I have a new tasting group where we tasted Italian wines last night.  I wish I had the list so I could give you the names.  The problem is that some of the "better" wines in the tasting clearly needed more time in the bottle and more decant time.  So, the wines which showed best were the less tanic, higher alc. (14.5%) wines.  The meal that was served was lasagne.  I have the distinct impression that had we eaten red meat, one of the more tanic wines would have done better.

Bottom line, lots of variables.  Difficult to draw blanket conclusions.  Also, IMO, the quality of mid to low priced wine has gone up over the last years.  Above a certain price threshold, there are mostly differences in style, preference and marketing budgets, rather than objective quality differences.

Reply by zufrieden, Apr 17, 2011.

I think the common denominator of the study was clear: the variable of interest, if you will, is simply price.  Howver, as someone whose work is scrutinized for bias, I can suggest some problems (or at least questions) that relate to this study.  We don't know whether the sample of participants represents the buying population, a self-selected group of science group attendees (in Edinburgh, to boot), wine enthusiasts or some other subset of Scots and random attendees from hither and thither.  So we really don't know what to make of the results.  Had participants been drawn from wine experts (based on some agreed-upon criteria of expertise), perhaps some hint of price effect on quality might emerge - in terms of the serious imbiber.  For Joe Bloggs, another outcome might be expected - perhaps one close to the one reported - but we can't be sure.

Sampling participants and controlling the experiment for characteristics in the population with known variance is the first point of departure. More to the point, sampling along the appropriate strata is not so easy as punters may think and we have no reason to believe that anything was done to control for variables other than price, varietal, color and appellation.

So, I would put these results in the category of "straw poll".  That does not mean they are without interest or information, just that the conclusions drawn in the quotation supplied above are not really entailed by the evidence. 

In short, I agree with dmcker.


Reply by Stephen Harvey, Apr 17, 2011.

Zuf, well said

If I gave a random 18 year old a glass of 99 DRC La Tache I doubt they would have any idea whether it is a good wine or not [Unless they were a student of Burgundian wine!]

Worse, if I got them to try it against some sickly sweet sparkling red anything they would probably prefer that.

I am sure you could do a study comparing Macca's to some gourmet subset then you may get similar results.

Taste test one of the great blue cheeses with a commercial cheddar amongst people who eat only commercial cheese, I am sure the blue would rate poorly.

These studies are interesting but prove very little IMHO

Reply by dmcker, Apr 18, 2011.

Igcota, just because it's called 'scientific' doesn't make it so. Zuf and Stephen point out several of the fallacies in the 'study'. If the thread gains legs I'll throw in a few more. I think the prof up in Scotland basically wanted to garner attention, and at least in this forum he's succeeded....

Reply by tulaw, Apr 18, 2011.

Forget the price. Buy and drink what you like.  That us all these studies tell me.   When I lived in Europe, I had some great "table wines" for just a few bucks at the market.  I also experience some wines that costs hundreds, and they were not nearly as pleasing.  I agree that price can be an indicator of quality, but not always.  Higher priced wines always leave me with a higher expectation of quality, and I am often disappointed.  Now that I live in California, I have learned to look for wines that stand out as unique.  Price is rarely an indicator of that.

Back to Categories

Top Contributors This Month

1498622 Snooth User: Really Big Al
1498622Really Big Al
91 posts
127503 Snooth User: rckr1951
77 posts
847804 Snooth User: EMark
42 posts


View All

Snooth Media Network