Does price make the wine taste better?

At the Wine Rack

Christopher Reckord

Thursday, October 06, 2011

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One of my favourite shows on TV is a weekly news programme called CBS Sunday Morning. Last week there was a feature that piqued my interest greatly as there were lots of people sipping on wines. The feature was called "The science behind pleasure-seeking". It featured interviews with Professor Gregory Berns, a neuroeconomist at Emory University who noted that some pleasures are no less than a matter of survival. As a student of psychology during my teacher-training years, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs popped into my head. Yale psychologist Paul Bloom went on further to explain that WHY we enjoy what we enjoy is very complicated. "It seems like we just taste food, and taste wine, we respond to our visceral sensations. But, actually, it is surprisingly deep," Bloom said. So deep, in fact, that he has written a book on pleasure, which he says is as much about our brains as about our experiences.

The wine experiment

In the feature, Dr Paul Bloom described an experiment with wine drinkers done by scientists at Stanford and Cal Tech. "Half the people are told they're drinking cheap plunk, the other half are told they're drinking something out of a $100-$150 bottle," Bloom said. "It tastes better to them, if they THINK they're drinking from an expensive bottle. And it turns out that if they think they're drinking expensive wine, parts of the brain that are associated with pleasure and reward light up like a Christmas tree." He went on to joke that in order to make wine taste better, simply make people think that it is expensive. "That is the ultimate trick to making wine taste better," Bloom said.

My own tests

I have conducted versions of this test from time to time. As a matter of fact, only this past weekend

I had received a few samples of some very popular supermarket value-priced wines for sampling and so I decided to have a bit of fun. I asked a few friends to taste a few glasses of wines and everyone enjoyed the wines, until I brought the bottles out. Then there were the sighs and a number of comments related to the fact that they never buy these wines as they always thought that because they were so low-priced they could not taste good.

Interestingly enough, I typically find that the more wine knowledge someone claims to have, the easier they are to fool. The unpretentious new wine drinker either likes the wine or hates the wine - simple.

So, does price make the wine taste better? Yes - depends on the audience. For the regular wine lover - YES, as it's all in the mind; the new thought movement out there already know that it always is all in the mind!

Professional sommeliers and other wine professionals are trained to blind-taste wines in specific conditions and they have a very detailed methodology to use a number of clues to figure out where the wine is from and what type of wine it is.

"Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance." - Benjamin Franklin.

Chris Reckord - Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. He and his wife Kerri-Anne are part-owners of Jamaica's only Wine Bar - Bin 26 Wine Bar in Devon House, Kingston. Send your questions and comments to Follow us on


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