What makes a great wine?

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!

4 thoughts on “What makes a great wine?”

  1. Reading the research that led to this story focuses on some different issues – how the brain interprets data input. Researchers in Italy and more recently at Cal Tech used MRI to watch neuron paths while people where drinking wine. If a subject was told the wine was either expensive or great, the paths were distinctly different than the paths if the drinker was told the wine was cheap or bad.

    The next part of research was conducted on inexperienced wine drinkers with a simple scale. Research indicated that there was a slight inverse relationship between cost and pleasure – e.g. the cheaper wines were perceived as better. The study didn’t account for sweetness levels. Most Americans prefer sweet to tart. Bulk wine makes know this and adjust their products accordingly. Higher end wine are often made for aging and thus tend to be dry (not sweet) and tannic.

    All of that said, you are right. The secret to a great bottle is drinking it with friends.


    Perception is reality.

  2. Hey Jared,

    Thanks for that info. It’s great to get comments from someone who is so involved with wine.

    I suppose expectations do have a major effect on the experience. I’ve heard (anecdotally) that people who pay more for something tend to appreciate it more. Your comments would seem to back it up.

  3. Pingback: Vinegar beer

Leave a Reply