Listening to Sunday's Freakanomics on my iPhone made the trip out a kosher restaurant in Great Neck much more enjoyable. Old news, or rather an old opinion, but still entertaning.
Dubner and Levitt explored the great myth (that they take as truth) that people associate a costly wine with a better wine. We all have a good laugh at the pompous idiot who likes 'good wine,' when two-buck-chuck would do the trick. After all, can a wine really be worth over $100? There's a great book on that topic, though also old, Lawrence Osbornes now classic, The Accidental Connoisseur, but it seems no one, even Dubner and Levitt want to read about wine, or to get down and deep.
Levitt prefaced his amusing story with "Wine, I do not like at all."
That should tell us something, in fact, it should have been the name of the program.
But still, he tells a very funny story about his time spend at the privileged Harvard's Society of Fellows, formal Sunday night dinners and enforced wine tastings included.
One day he turned the tables on his wine loving elders and staged a blind tasting.
He chose two $100 bottles of wine he called excellent. Then went to the local store and bought the cheapest bottle and plunked three bottles into four decanters. You know how this is going to end up, right? Some of those professors who thought they knew a thing or two chose the cheapest bottle. Others couldnt tell that there were two of the same wines in different decanters. Then Dubner follows his piece up with Robin Goldstein's neat trick on the Wine Spectator, and his research that people are swayed by thinking quality is dictated by price.
Most people really do think that a wine that costs more is better.
I see it all the time when I give away some spoof stuff, I wouldn't go near that costs $75 and up. It might as well be the $5 version. And it is absolutely true that blind tasting can be very humbling. Wine pros take it for granted they'll be made a fool of at one point or another, and take it in stride and sense of humor. But in the world that I travel in? Here's the litle secret. The LESS you can spend for a bottle that tastes great? That's the stuff you want. A bottle of wine that costs $12 or under?And is great? Sells out immediately.
The difference is, the more you really know, the less you are influenced by price. The more you are influenced by place and producer. So perhaps all of the Levitt and Goldstein trials are great for those who think, "Wine, I really don't like." But for those of us who love it? Well, bring on the different case studies, hopefully filled with good cases.