« Freakonomics Radio

14. Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better?

2010-12-15 | 🔗
They should! It's a cardinal rule: more expensive items are supposed to be qualitatively better than their cheaper versions. But is that true for wine?
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So you got beef jerky. You got dough pickle. What? What? What are your favorite food like when you favour places like you could drive across Amerika and pick any place to stop any? What's going to me, you know I love the Billygoat Tavern, it's the cheap place. There was made famous in the nineteen, probably seventies answer and I live with that people here to pick up where they have incredible revised, examined pretty much cheaper, the food, the better there's, almost no fast food Donna door. The cave see The cave see Burg, hers to Portland kill for two, partly so would you describe your palette underdeveloped, you know, but it's good. I mean the thing is with a wonderful, wonderful gift to like cheap food
Some people just happened alike, expensive food and then their unhappy must have the time or us they spend their money food. But if you just by chance, born, loving, cheap food? Then you can eat everything that you love haven't how much you like wine, Why do not like at all? I'm happy. from american public media and w and Y see. This is broken onyx radio today why wine experts should just put a working and why having an untrained power, can save you lots of dope. Here's your host, Stephen Dublin, good wine were told, is the province. smart superior people, they they tastings
on another level and people like you and me, a little mineralogy, ungraciously old George is funky. So let me vomit, but I have a question for you: is that superiority deserved the wines that exports love the ones that bring out the natural beauty of the great but aren't too funky? They cost a lot more four hundred and fifty dollars, but are expensive wines really that much better and cheap wines? Or is it possible that developing your palette, just mucks things up complicates things, We would all be better off if we had taste buds like Steve, Levitt, silver to Poland. After graduate school Levitt was invited to join an elite club at Harvard called the society of Fellows a junior fellow like him was it a modest salary to work on his own research with few obligations other than a formal Monday night dinner with the senior fellows who were some of the most remarkable scholars alive, people like you Amartya SEN and and nobody
as winning physicists and what I mean you sit around the table and I think the way the table was Oliver Wendell HOMES table this lady. He gifted society fellows over dinner. They engaged and witty learned conversation. They ate venison other fine food and they drink expensive wine bottled after bottle. This budding young economist with the beef jerky taste in the great soda budget. All that Creasy wine, it wasn't doing him any good here. thought innocently. I was young. I didn't understand other world work. I thought like an economist. I suggested that perhaps we should have two tracks of the thirty fails be the drinking track and abstinence track and for those of us who chose the absence track, because the cost of the wine was perhaps sixty dollars per meal that over the course of of a fifty weeks of here. That would work out to be about three thousand dollars and they could add three thousand dollars to the paycheck of those of us on the abstinence path,
and did you have any other people in your abstinence Campos is just leave it? Well, you know I didn't really get that far beyond his very actual, quite negative limits. The kind of person who likes to use data, not a personal agenda, to make his arguments, so he set out to get some data were, data, the wine they were drinking at these dinners cost five or ten times what a cheap bottle of wine cost. Was it really five or ten times better? He had the plan The society fellows held wine tastings from time to time. He suggested that the next one be his to organise, so I worked with the wine steward to select to excellent bottles of wine spent about one, probably two hundred dollar bottles of wine, and then I to the liquor store
That was down the street and, I said, can I have the cheapest bottle of wine? You have that what there was the same great but a member which greatly was let it used for decanters into the first, canter. He poured one of the expensive bottles of wine. The other expensive wine went into decanter number two in the third decanter. He poured the cheap wine which cost around eight dollars and the fourth decanter he repeated one of expensive wine. So as far as the people knew, there were four different lines: through all wine that were coming out of the the wine cellar of the side effects but your tricking him from the outset the ear leading them to believe that the fourth the cheap wine is also from the line. So I dont mean yes, I thought about this world them a bit them and sipped. They wrote down their ratings as he looked
the numbers love it's cold, economist heart on the data could not have cooperated more completely opened, my hypothesis. So for starters, the for wines received identical ratings on average other work, a widespread among individuals on average, is tell it up. People did not prefer the expensive ones to the cheap one. On top of that- and this was The thing that I was hoping for and dreaming of, but didn't believe, electric came to it turned out when you meet, the individuals if you compare the how differently raided? You need two of the wind tat they had. It turned out that by a small margin people actually raided the same wine from the same bottle, but presented in a different decanter, his being the most different wanting, so so the two lines that were absolutely identical. When you looked at the distant that the gap between the
meetings at an individual gave to those lines. The gap was bigger than did between the otherwise, which actually were different. A few minutes to the tasting was over Steve leverage. ere the results, with the senior fellows the jovial mood in the room suddenly went dark people realize they had been tricked that there had been this cheap, why the same. Why wasn't wisely? And they really realised that the nature of the game had been somewhat different, know what they thought and when they heard the results, collectively they had no ability to identify wind we're not happy. In particular, there was one senior fell, so one of the professors at Harvard who, who is quite outspoken about is not one and he loudly announced that he had a cold. Otherwise he clearly could mean the distinctions and he stormed from the room and and left left the party prematurely. What was his discipline
for the sake of anonymity. I should not reveal that particular piece of information. He was a humanist. He was a unanimous in other words, no now opposite haven't got her So what does love its evil? Little experiment teach us about wine me not all that much wasn't very scientific tasting. Really. Perhaps this is have you fellows, is just having off night, the humanist had a cold right or maybe this was just a group of people who didn't know as much about wine as they thought they knew. It never be able to pull this kind of stunt on wine exports. Would you. Ah my team, overmasters somewhere to master wine candidates for people rather than in the trade for many years, these are sophisticated wine professionals. That's Brian De Marco, talking about the people there, gathered for a blind tasting of his own. Before we get to that here, a little bit more about Brian Special, as in helping customers
consumers, private collectors and retailers in restaurants decide what to put on their list, but ones that collect what ones the cell and I have a small import, business and also company, and we distribute wine that we find all over Europe and South America in New York, city cool. So you're, almost a wine agents, then ya, know any more than just an importer. in many ways, ass, Brien De Marco is one of the people who decide what we drink. He goes to France, ITALY, California, tastes wine fresh out of the tank, so he determines what's good or bad. Without any critics whispering sweet ratings into his ear, then he puts his mind. Where's taste buds? Are he writes a check now? According to De Marco, he makes as much honey sewing fifteen dollar bottle of wine to a restaurant or shop, as he does selling fifty dollar about. That's true to Marco is an honest broker. His job
I was simply define wine that you or I would want to drink, because if you think about it, there are thousands upon thousands of bottle. to choose from just picture the rose bottles lining the shelves, every wine shop, you kind. Sword, a maybe think you wanna buy a more low, forgive pick them up. if the pretty flowers on the label you go with the one that Robert Parker, the I priest of wine ratings of worth a lot of his Parker points to or like a lot of people. Do you let price beer guide, if you believe, even a little bit in the free market, you'd have to think that expensive wines cost more. because it tastes better right, brightened Marco, wanted to know how much people were tasting the dollars when they drank inexpensive. Why so, like Steve Levitt, he conducted a little experiment with some the people who work for him. As the Marco said, these were no amateurs. We did a tasting.
Brown bag, and we had the exact same wine and both bags, and He told them that one bottle was affected our bottle and write the reviews musn't another was a ten dollar bottle to. Rather it is an of course her, both twenty dollar bottles according to retail, what they would sell any retail store, and then we river and we are now the tender bottle is really the fifty and everyone, like the fifteen, bottle better and both certain that is because they perceived the prize there had either thought there's something their missing when really there like these funds are still somewhat yeah, but their different a lot of people. Call two or three people said. Is this the same line and we support this? you to determine and the more they thought about it, the more than Actualized it the more they decided there was differences that one
so this wasn't a wildly scientific experiment either, but to brain De Marco. The message couldn't have been clear. People know a wine is more expensive or even think it is it tastes better. Now, obviously, this idea doesn't apply just to wine. A house the cost five hundred thousand dollars oughta be five I was better on some level than a hundred thousand dollar house. The size that construction, the schools neighborhood. So is a wine that costs fifty dollars five times better than a ten dollar bottle, Is it even better at all? Coming up, we go looking for hard core empirical evidence that expensive wines actually tastes better than she points. And we look beyond price to prestige to wine ratings. The awards the whole should bang, because if your wine, or your whole wine list
wins in a word from a magazine like wine spectator, it's gotta be good right right. Yeah. Fr economics radios brought to you by square if you run a business oh how important it is to have a healthy cashflow. That's why we take payments with square either in person or online? You get your money fast access, it instantly vs, where card a free business, a bit card or transfer it, to your bank account on. You reschedule see all the ways Square can health at square dot com slash, go slash! Freak though nonsense. Thanks to Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch ass, pennsylvanians or scratching their way to find and we'd Newgate,
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my name's Robin Goldstein. I right about wine and food. Basically, my book, the wine trials has been made. I guess principle outlet for writing by wine, but have also been publishing academic papers on topics of taste from a cognitive perspective and an economic perspective, usually co, authored with colleagues from different academic fields, Leben exploring the neuroscience side of it. A bit have been exploring the paper, side of it, and in particular I am interested in price signals and how people's knowledge of price affects their experience of wine on the most basic sensory level. Now, first images s guy I've heard things about this lovely little restaurant MILAN called Austria Intrepidity ever Actually, I've I've been to the restaurant, but it's actually located My friend Giuliano as former apartment in MILAN, the
He restaurant, really, I wouldn't say great- mostly they serve left over pizza and their wine cellar- consists mostly iversen left over bottles of wine to push out a brutal from three. We but learning its meaning. It's not really restaurant, it's an apartment, so it's just an address really I was too real. Intrepidity doesn't exist, a fake restaurant Robin Goldstein Meda. Why well strange story? Goldstein Research in writing. On wine made him sceptical about critics and awards. He believed that so called experts were at best subjective and that the carried way too much he wondered about the awards. Magazines, like wine spectator, gave to rest for their wine lists didn't award that really mean that the wines that restaurant were excellent, so invented Austria, intrepidity or fearless restaurant.
He created a fake menu, a fake website and a faint voice, mail message saying: the restaurant was closed for vacation. Quite another crack down on some of these people began for before Miss I dropped it As for the US, to real intrepid a wine list. Goldstein made that up to include several expensive wines that wine spectator itself had given bad reviews. In the past, one of them was a nineteen eighty two Brunelleschi Mantle Chino, which the magazine had given sixty seven points, or indeed plus rating, calling it barnyard iii and decayed. He lives another vintage that wine spectator had reviewed as unacceptable, sweet and clawing and smells like bug spray. Then off his application went with the fake, mindless and a real money. My hat
office was that the two hundred and fifty dollar fee was really the functional part of the application, in other words, that the entire awards programme was really just an advertising scheme and that it was being fraudulently misrepresented as an exercise of expert judgement by one spectator I see now was a piece of you expecting that when you applied for this, that they would send someone around to drink some, your wine or eat some of your food well, of course, ethics. Right. So I didn't know I mean I didn't I wasn't. Sure going into this- that I would win an award. There are two questions being tested here. One was
Do you have to have a good wine list to win and wine spectator award of excellence, and the second was do you have to exist to win a wine spectator award of excellent, and so I thought that it was quite possible that my experiment would fail. He didn't fail. I'm calling from the wine Spectator magazine in New York calling to congratulate you and let you know that you're restaurant was selected as a wine spectator restaurant award winner. Hopefully you did receive some information from us, but I'm calling to follow up and see if you might have an interest in publicizing your award out with an added. Coming issue which comes out in August, as we do have a lot of international business travellers who may be coming to MILAN Anthea, and what was the name of the word that you one for your fictional restaurant, though one spectator award of Uclaf. So congratulations its awesome that year
winner? Thank you. I too could be a winner. Presumably yeah. If you, if you're wines or balance in August, two thousand eight a new organisation called the American Association of Wine economists held its annual conference in Portland Oregon. That's were gone, style revealed his fake award of excellence, the press drank it up New York, Post wine, Mag humbled by hoax, according the delay times wines. Dictator was now drinking a hearty glass of blush in spectator, vigorously, defended its award system the negative editor said the magazine never claimed a visit every restaurant and that it did its due diligence an austrian intrepidity looking over its website and calling the restaurant, but that it kept reaching an answering machine. Rupture Robin Goldstein for his part, was can against the wine system, was fundamentally flawed. If a fake restaurant with.
Wine list that included bad expensive wines. Could an award of excellence from one of the most prestigious wine magazines in the world. Who are we supposed to trust my take? Who is that expert sources in the media are trusted too much and that are then that their prone to using their positions of power. The way of making money. So the phenomenon- or an ad. What's really an ad is posing as real experts. Expert judgment is is very problematic for consumers, because consumers really put trust in these magazines we put. first, an expert there's so many fields out there that we don't know as much about as the experts do, and so we use experts as An information intermediaries is a proxy for good judgment.
and in an area that we don't know as much as the experts s birthday and when we you know when we trust experts too much and they sell their awards Two entities that are really their customers- that's quite problematic. Robin Goldstein also had an academic paper to present at that conference of wine economists. The paper was called. Do we're expensive wines tastes better. If the also really capital stunt was just a stunt, and if this Eve, Levin, brine De Marco, blind tastings, we heard about earlier. We just unscientific tricks, well, gold signs was the opposite of that. It gathered up data from seventeen blind tastings that Goldstein himself organised the data included more than six thousand observations from more than five hundred people from amateur? Why drinkers to some all gaze and wine makers. He tested red wines, whites roses. The prices
and from a dollar sixty five a bottle to a hundred fifty dollars a bottle, it was as rigorous as you could get and what did Goldstein learn that overall people liked expensive wines less than cheap wines When you don't know what a bottle of wine costs, apparently you dont know how good it supposed to taste. Even the most expert tasters could barely tell the difference between expensive wines and cheap loans. Unsettling is buying a bottle of wine should be as complicated as buying house, but thanks to the letter experts between us and the grapes. We ve got performance anxiety. Why isn't supposed to be added It's a celebration, a beloved rests Civilization in a bottle, you were drinking the handcrafted fruit, some farmers vines the Mugabe, hundreds of years grown under the same sun shining,
billions of years when it be nice to drop the pretence. Set aside the ratings and price in just drink, Rhine De Marco, the wine importer. That's what he's really after who are we to to tell the Connecticut housewife that that Oki Shard, now she's been slamming down for the last ten years from California it's not driving pleasure from. That. Surely is but just there are so many other things. It's like limiting you're you're Europe. your musical notes, only playing an unseen out your life. It's only eating cheeseburgers and hamburgers. You know the rest of your life. If you want to try other foods and other cultures and other things it opening. This bottle of real ha some hesitation to Spain and makes you feel like you want topless than this done. Its job
and whether its fifteen, our bottle, were thirty dollars bottle is irrelevant. At that point I mean that then two nuances of of good and great, but I think the bottle of wine as doated attracted either change your day from from a alcoholics, thereby getting to a certain point. We are okay, this is this is or for people like myself in the town It's it's something you have with food. I mean growing up in a tie and household. We wondered in Britain But to me, why wasn't alcohol? Why was Rossi in a jug that was poured in the juice class from my grandfather, and that was what you have with dinner drinking to me but was Jack Daniels no sneaking out on Friday night to go drink, Let me just ass, you are sitting here, and I am a radio student, downtown New York with kind of mucus colored on padding in artificial light in this
Basically nothing good about this space is no air, there's nothing but soulless. But transport me for a minute. So tell me Brian, the room that you would like to be sitting in right now and the food that you'd like to be eating right now and most of all what the wine as with that food, and what that wine tastes like tea. I think a crisp answer would be perfect right now and with some sort of court monsieur and maybe I don't know what salad with the little vinaigrette and would be kind of perfect, and I'm not jack. Another definitely has its place and and maybe have back a bottle on ice you table gut. for another guy. There you're sit with me
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-19.