Cheap wine 'good as pricier bottles' - blind taste test

 
Woman tasting wine (library picture) The wines tested were priced up to £30 a bottle

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Wine costing less than £5 a bottle can have the same effect on the palate as those priced up to six times as much, a psychological taste challenge suggests.

The blind test at the Edinburgh Science Festival saw 578 members of the public correctly identify the "cheap" or "expensive" wines only 50% of the time.

They tasted a range of red and white wines including merlot and chardonnay.

University of Hertfordshire researchers say their findings indicate many people may just be paying for a label.

Two champagnes costing £17.61 and £29.99 were compared, alongside the bottles costing less than £5 and vintages priced between £10 and £30.

The other varieties tasted were shiraz, rioja, claret, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc.

The participants were asked to say which they thought were cheap and which were expensive.

By the laws of chance, they should have been able to make a correct guess 50% of the time - and that was the exact level of accuracy seen.

The findings demonstrate the volunteers cannot distinguish between wines by taste alone, the organisers of the test say.

Lead researcher psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman said: "These are remarkable results. People were unable to tell expensive from inexpensive wines, and so in these times of financial hardship the message is clear - the inexpensive wines we tested tasted the same as their expensive counterparts."

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 148.

    I used to work for a somewhat majestic wine company. Staff were encouraged to propagate the myth that price = quality. A myth that a good deal of the status chasing customers were more than happy to lap up!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 147.

    If you watch Saturday Kitchen at all, you'd realise that wine choice (particularly with a meal) is all about setting and what else you're doing/eating at the time. A heavy Cab. Sauv. would be completely out of place at a summer garden party or with a fish course. What you've just been eating sets your palate up, so some wines (perfect at the right occasion) taste horrible when tasted in the street

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 146.

    I suppose wine was originally a means of avoiding dehydration without the bugs associated with unchlorinated water, and that of course is the essence of alcoholic fermentation. However, if wine is unpalatable nobody will buy it, so the winemakers have to strive for quality and consistency. So my approach is that quality and drinkability come first, and rarity or prestige count for nothing.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 145.

    I was a member of a wine club and knew the taste and price of every wine, until they took the bottle away and we did a blind tasting. At that point I was lucky if I could tell the difference between red and white.
    I now buy cheap wines on discount and I know which ones I don't like, but then again would I if I couldn't see the bottle..............

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 144.

    *Some* of the people in this survey were not fooled, I'm sure. Besides, as others have said, price is no longer a reliable indicator of good wine. Some of my favourite wines cost over £30 a bottle, and others are only a fiver.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 143.

    Fantastic example of a very poorly conducted/ reported "science". It does tell you what the total sample was, only that out of 578 people 50% could not tell a expensive wine from a cheap one. If the total sample was actually say 3000 then only a minority of the sampled population could not make the distinction. If the total sample size was only 578 then it’s too small a sample to be relevant.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 142.

    The parameter for "expensive" wines in the study is a relatively low bar. The study did not say what kind of participants were involved in the tasting. Folks who regularly consume lower pricepoints usually do not prefer high acid level or too much tannin, i.e. structure in a wine. Certainly, there are wonderful values at every pricepoint. A £5 bottle may be balanced but will never be complex.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 141.

    Perhaps it would be better to leave the reporting of science to those that have a basic grasp of it. The test does not show that expensive wines taste the same as cheap wines. The lead researcher may have said it does, but anyone that understands what can and cannot be proven in such tests will know that to be incorrect. They tested for a difference, and the test failed. Nothing was proven.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 140.

    The public only score 50%, so 50% of all cheap wine still tastes cheap. More that one conclusion can be drawn from the results, the headline appeals to the lay person who fells conned by things they don't understand. In these times of financial hardship understanding what you are spending on is even more important. Take the time to understand wine, you can get good results from a small budget.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 139.

    If I can wear my "Ben Goldacre hat" for a minute, I do wonder how ramdomly the sample wines were selected, and just how many were in the test sample? By accident or design, I could easily rig this experiment to produce a headline-worthy outcome. Meanwhile, wine snobbery gets us all, misguided or otherwise: I carefully select cheaper wines from supermarkets, but never take them to dinner parties!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 138.

    I'm living in Spain, our local (major) supermarket has, for last three months, had a La Mancha 'Fidencio' (stacked high on pallets!), it's just so good, very, very drinkable...and 99 cents a bottle!!!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 137.

    googled ' phenolic ripeness'...took me to www.wineanorak.com/ripeness :)

    Enjoyable reading these comments - can't we all just enjoy what we can afford without others feeling the need to be one better than everybody else?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 136.

    No surprise. The wine industry, aided and abetted by retail, has been misleading (and increasingly overcharging) the public for decades.
    I'm reminded to enquire of Sainsbury's why their reasonably quaffable Mont. d'Abruzzo has increased in price from £3.05 to £3.80 since Nov '10. At the original price (+ 2.5% vat increase) it was value. So, I've stopped buying it.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 135.

    So champagne, rioja, etc., are varieties now, are they?

    Well, no.

    They are regions within which certain wines originate, produced from locally-grown grapes.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 134.

    #118 of course, that link should have been:

    http://www.BoozeMonkey.com

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 133.

    I've been an enjoyer of wines for many decades, whenever I am on the continent I order the house wine to accompany my meal and have very rarely been disappointed. Large price does not necessarily mean large enjoyment.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 132.

    What does this article really tell us? Most know wine prices in the UK often don't relate to quality, but more the label and/or general marketing. People also become too consumed by price, rather that particular taste. Were the people involved in this experiment professing to be wine experts? If not, is this article seeking to encourage wine-snobbery?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 131.

    "The message is clear - the inexpensive wines we tested tasted the same as their expensive counterparts."
    This is simply not true - it merely shows that people don't know how to rate quality using price. What is a 'good' wine? One that is drinkable, which many of the inexpensive wines will be, or one that really intrigues the taste buds? All wine is different, regardless of price.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 130.

    Living in France, I must say that quality varies a lot. I have never paid over €8 a bottle; in general, perfectly good wine can be bought for between €3 - 5. You don't need to spend a fortune to drink good wine in the UK either, methods and region of production are important, thrown together by a coop or bottled by the winemaker, these things count, not the pricetag or the fancy label.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 129.

    All this illustrates is that the public is unable to distinguish wine quality. 30 years of wine drinking has taught me that whereas there will always be some good wine at low prices and some bad wine at expensive prices, you generally get what you pay for.

    To be convincing, the study should be repeated with subjects who have developed their palate and understanding of wine over several years.

 

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