January 14, 2008
Higher Price, More Flavor?

The higher the price of a wine, the better it tastes, right? A lot of people think that, and now a study verifies that if people think an expensive wine tastes better than a cheap wine it will. The operative word here is "think." The study, to be reported in tomorrow's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and reported today by, involved volunteers who overwhelmingly said they enjoyed wines they were told were expensive rather than wines they were told were cheap, even though the prices were fake. "Preference shown by...brain patterns were highest for wines with the most-inflated prices," says the report.

This got me to wondering whether judges at last week's San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition gave proportionally more gold medals to wines that were more than less expensive. Let's run the numbers: Of the 102 cabernet sauvignons to get a medal in the category where their price was up to $14.99, 12 got gold. Of the 100 cabernet sauvignons priced $45 or more, 17 got gold. That's not much of a disparity, indicating that judges weren't much influenced by the price of the category they were evaluating. And, of course, a higher-priced cabernet sauvignon should taste better than a less-expensive version. It also shows that some mighty fine cabernet sauvignon at attractive prices is out there. Two of them are local wines, the Bogle Vineyards 2005 California Cabernet Sauvignon ($11) and the McManis Family Vineyards 2006 California Cabernet Sauvignon ($10). Two Buck Chuck didn't fare badly, either, getting a silver medal for the Charles Shaw Winery 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($2, at Trader Joe's stores).

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