Saw a post on the Freakonomics blog about wines, and people’s abilities to tell the difference between good and bad wines. I love Levitt for his willingness to piss people off in the pursuit of truth (read the part about the scholar who stormed out of the room!) Anyways, there was a large study done, and the conclusion is that people generally can’t taste the difference between “great” wines, and ordinary wines (link goes to original paper).
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some reasonably pricey bottles of wine. And I’ve enjoyed some of them. I appreciate that there’s people who really take care of their vines; who pick the best grapes; who use classic equipment and methods. But, I’ve also had bottles that cost under $20 and tasted quite nice.
Generally (and with no expertise to back this up) I think the knowledge of how to produce a decent wine has spread very far, and snobbery is mostly a hangover from the past few hundred years when lots of wines were actually quite bad.
Of course, I know the true secret behind great wine. It’s that any average wine becomes great when you drink it with great people. Salud!