Great Wine… It Really Is All in Your Head
What is it that makes expensive wine taste better?
Is it the lovingly grown grapes, planted in gold-plated vineyards and kissed by the breath of virgins in the glistening dew of morning? Is it the sheer brilliance of the winemaker, an alchemist who possesses an enological Midas touch that turns mere grapes into Chateau Lafite Rothschild? Or is it the magic of that all-encompassing if enigmatic term “terroir,” which is French for, We don’t really know what it is but it does make for really great wine?
Actually, it’s none of the above. It’s your brain. Specifically, your brain under the influence of, well, money.
That, at least, is the conclusion of a study done by the University of Bonn and the global business school, INSEAD. It involved more than a dozen people, each given three tastes of wine costing about $14 a bottle. The first taste they were told the wine cost $3.50, the second $7 and the third $21, though in fact it was the same wine every time. Not surprisingly, they found the high-priced wine tasted best.
Researchers focused on two areas of the brain: the pre-frontal cortex, which seems to conflate price with quality, and the ventral striatum, which seems to get goosed by higher prices and apparently encourages people to think the wine tastes better than it is.
Unfortunately, the study doesn’t indicate what cork dorks can do to keep their brains from messing up their palates, except perhaps to pay more attention to what’s in your mouth and less to the price tag on the bottle.