Saturday, June 16, 2012

Does All Wine Taste the Same?

Yup, but the labels (and prices) are different.

Jonah Lehrer reports:
On May 24, 1976, the British wine merchant Steven Spurrier organized a blind tasting of French and Californian wines. Spurrier was a Francophile and, like most wine experts, didn’t expect the New World upstarts to compete with the premiers crus from Bordeaux. He assembled a panel of eleven wine experts and had them taste a variety of Cabernets blind, rating each bottle on a twenty-point scale.

The results shocked the wine world. According to the judges, the best Cabernet at the tasting was a 1973 bottle from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa Valley. When the tasting was repeated a few years later—some judges insisted that the French wines had been drunk too young—Stag’s Leap was once again declared the winner, followed by three other California Cabernets. These blind tastings (now widely known as the Judgment of Paris) helped to legitimate Napa vineyards.

But now, in an even more surprising turn of events, another American wine region has performed far better than expected in a blind tasting against the finest French ch√Ęteaus. Ready for the punch line? The wines were from New Jersey.
Read the rest here.


  1. Mindsets will eff you every time.

  2. Wine from New Jersey or any temperate region is really not that big of a deal. Grapes like rich acidic soil and so long as you have that and don't have too harsh of a winter, they'll grow just fine. The region that is going to shock everyone are grapes and wines from the tropics. Vitis vinifera grows well in many tropical regions and wine production is still in its infancy. The benefit of growing in the tropics is that grape vines are evergreens and thus you get an extra crop every 2 years.

  3. These things are all subjective anyhow. The value that people derive from $1000 bottles of wine is that they are expensive to buy, not that the wine is better than the $7 Livingston Red Rose that I buy.

    Taste preference is different from person to person, so establishing a "best" wine is a futile exercise. "Most popular" by blind taste test is more accurate, and for that we need a much larger blind taste test than 9 people.

  4. In fact I find I enjoy the cheap, mass produced wine much more than the expensive stuff offered at local wineries because I feel better about my spent dollar. Sort of inverse from the millionaire who lives for the $1000 bottle, I love the cheap stuff.

    Jeff Tucker had a good article about this:

  5. The $2.98 750mL bottles of Merlot sold at Walmarts in parts of Virginia (can't remember the brand) taste pretty darn good to my not-so-refined taste. And there's always 2-Buck-Chuck at Trader Joes (haven't personally tried it, but have heard good things).

    It is similar with cars: One can buy an inexpensive Korean import that gets you from A-to-Z with great mileage and decent amenities, or one can pay 2-3x as much for what is -- from a utilitarian perspective -- essentially the same thing.

    1. The Trader Joe's $2.90 bottles I have tried.
      Find them very acidy whether cabernet, merlot or shiraz.
      But, they do have very good prices on most.
      Try the Italian wines Barbera d'alba and similar.
      Good prices tool

  6. Wine is yet another example of different things having different value to different people, based in this case (I would argue) on genetic differences in taste. I do not have much of a sense of smell (which was a real blessing the summer I worked at the town dump) and red wines all taste more or less the same to me, which fact has saved me a great deal of money over the years. On the other hand I love a good cup of coffee. By contrast, my office-mate has a sharp sense of smell, loves high-end wines, and finds coffee disgusting. I would be shocked if there were not a physical reason underlying this. So- different preferences for different folks, different relative values. Vive la free market.

  7. It's just grape juice gone rotten anyway.

  8. It's not just the first impressionm or taste, for me. Many cheaper wines and some expensive ones will give me and my wife a headache or mushy headed feeling. In general, we don't experience this as much with French wines (burgundy wines in particular).
    It's what someone told me is the difference between a buzz from drinking mouthwash vs. well crafted spirits.

  9. Reason TV did a nice short documentary piece that talks about this, and offers a compelling free market reason as to why this is the case...

    Red, White, & Sacrebleu: How American wines shocked the world