Friday, July 10, 2015

Grape Expectations

I've written before on how the price of wine affects our evaluation of it (“Do Expensive Wines Really Taste Better?”). There I noted that a study by the economist Robin Goldstein that involved more than 6,000 blind tastings found that “individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine,” and it didn't matter if the individuals were amateur wine tasters or experts. Another study by wine broker Brian DiMarco turned up similar findings. While many of us believe that our palates can distinguish good from bad wine, it appears that for most of us, whether we are amateurs or experts, "price is often a far-too-powerful signal to our taste buds."

Price is not the only thing that signals the quality of the wine we drink. So are the glasses we serve it in. If we serve wine in the glasses that are designed for specific types of wine, the wine will taste better, at least to those of us who “know” the difference between them (and haven't read this blog post). As the behavioral economist Dan Ariely notes (“Predictably Irrational”),
If you want to enhance the experience of your guests, invest in a nice set of wineglasses. Moreover, if you’re really serious about your wine, you may want to go all out and purchase the glasses that are specific to burgundies, chardonnays, champagne, etc. Each type of glass is supposed to provide the appropriate environment, which should bring out the best in these wines (even though controlled studies find that the shape of the glass makes no difference at all in an objective blind taste test, that doesn’t stop people from perceiving a significant difference when they are handed the “correct glass”). Moreover, if you forget that the shape of the glass really has no effect on the taste of the wine, you yourself may be able to better enjoy the wine you consume in the appropriately shaped fancy glasses.
In other words, if you think the shape of the wine glass matters, it will matter even if you know it shouldn't.

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