Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I enjoy more than my fair share of wine; it is, without a doubt, my adult beverage of choice. But unfortunately, scientific studies such as this one just published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences only confirm the common stereotype of the "wine snob" (CWCID: Instapundit):

"Despite the importance and pervasiveness of marketing, almost nothing is known about the neural mechanisms through which it affects decisions made by individuals. We propose that marketing actions, such as changes in the price of a product, can affect neural representations of experienced pleasantness. We tested this hypothesis by scanning human subjects using functional MRI while they tasted wines that, contrary to reality, they believed to be different and sold at different prices. Our results show that increasing the price of a wine increases subjective reports of flavor pleasantness as well as blood-oxygen-level-dependent activity in medial orbitofrontal cortex, an area that is widely thought to encode for experienced pleasantness during experiential tasks. The paper provides evidence for the ability of marketing actions to modulate neural correlates of experienced pleasantness and for the mechanisms through which the effect operates."

In other words, the more we think it costs the more we actually like it.

As an experienced wine drinker I call bullshit. These test subjects need to watch "John Cleese - Wine for the Confused" (yes, that John Cleese) which is one of the more informative programs about wine I have ever seen. Cleese saves the best for last when he invites around a dozen friends over for a wine tasting party. The labels are covered and he tells everyone that there are bottles ranging from $5 to $100 on the table. All he wants his guests to do is rate the wines from best to worst. Long story short, no one gets it right. And the moral of the story is to drink what you like, not because it comes in a fancy bottle from a prestigious winery but because you like it. Now, I'll drink to that!

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