In this study, carried out over four years between 2006-2009, expert judges were given the same wine three times. In 90% of cases, judges assumed they were drinking different wines, and gave each sample different marks out of 100, sometimes just minutes after tasting the last one.
Study two, carried out in 2001: Experts were given the same wine, but with different labels. The language they used to describe each one varied, depending on whether the label signalled expensive or cheap. They described the supposedly posh wines as “complex” and “balanced”, while deploying words such as “weak” and “flat” for the wines presented as plonk.
In a blind test, 578 volunteers could only tell the difference between cheap and expensive wine around 50% of the time.
A study of 6,000 blind tastings by Robin Goldstein in the Journal of Wine Economics concluded thus: “For individuals with wine training, we find indications of a positive relationship between price and enjoyment.” Indeed, this seems to be hardwired. In this brain-scan study conducted by CalTech, Stanford suggests that the firing of neurons in the brain is affected by how much the subject thinks the wine he/she is being served cost.
Fifty-four experts tested two glasses of wine — one red, one white. They described the red as “jammy” and full of red fruit, not realising that both wines were from the same bottle. The only difference was that one had been coloured red with a flavourless dye.
This study, carried out by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, found that when a powerful piece of music such as O Fortuna from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is played, a wine such as Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon is perceived as being 60% richer and more robust than when no music is heard.
In this blind tasting conducted in 2012, French wines priced up to $650/bottle were put up against dirt-cheap New Jersey wines. The French wines won, but by such a tiny margin that, when analysing the results, Princeton professor Richard Quandt found the expensive and cheap wines to be “statistically undistinguishable” from each other.
In blind tests, Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvee Brut, a $12 sparkling wine from Washington, is preferred nearly two to one to $150 Dom Perignon if you strip away the labels.
Rudy Kurniawan sold cheap Napa Valley wine, but slapped on photocopied labels from fine wines, such as 1962 Domaine Ponsot Clos de la Roche. He fooled expert buyers, critics, and auctioneers, making huge profits — until he was finally caught and jailed.
Milanese restaurant Osteria L’Intrepido won Wine Spectator magazine’s prestigious Award of Excellence in August 2008 — the only problem being that the establishment didn’t exist. It was all a ruse dreamt up by Robin Goldstein to prove that Wine Spectator would dole out the award to anyone willing to pay the $250 fee.
Photos via Shutterstock.