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Is Price Related to Pleasure?

Challenging Jonah Lehrer to a True Taste-Off

I hear this story a lot, so often that I thought it was an urban legend.  The tale is one of the snooty wine expert duped into choosing yellow tail over Lafite in a blind tasting.

Recently Jonah Lehrer wrote for Wired about a study showing that even experts couldn’t tell the difference between a $5 and a $50 bottle.  According to Lehrer, “The results should upset wine snobs everywhere.”

As a self-proclaimed wine snob (but not one above drinking wine from a box), I can’t say I am upset.  I just don’t buy the results.  It is hard to “assess” a wine in a sip: A cheap wine impressing you with a promiscuously fruit-forward approach now isn’t a wine that will age well over decades like many – though not all — multi-hundred dollar bottles would.

The simple wine that wows in one taste probably isn’t even the one you would choose to drink a full glass of, let alone a bottle. Upfront, it’s fruity, flavorful and pleasing, but take a second sip and you realize that’s it - there’s no complexity or depth to encourage your palate to linger and explore further.

The biggest problem with taste-offs designed to dispel the notion of a discerning tongue is that usually the right wines aren’t chosen.  I can easily show you several $100 bottles that don’t taste better than a $10 bottle.  In a recent post, I discussed how our wine team tastes dozens to find one quality wine that has the right taste-to-price value ratio to make the Lot18 cut.

The key is choosing the right $100 bottle worthy of a comparison.

Rather than continue this argument, I see only one way to set the record straight: An old-fashioned taste-off.

Using wines whose price points truly offer pleasure and quality, I think different outcomes will result. Mr. Lehrer, will you indulge your curiosity and allow the Lot18 team to choose the wines for a proper experiment? We eagerly await your reply.

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