Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Intoxicating Numbers

Yesterday I was directed to check out a blog by "Captain Wow". The title of his particular article was, "Bad Wine at High Prices." It made me wonder, which one of you in Walla Walla pissed this guy off? The article went on to rant, "... the success of the Walla Walla, Washington wine industry. Charge customers fifty dollars for a five dollar bottle of vinegar passed off as Merlot from an inexperienced two year-old winery and people will call it (wonderful) ..."

I left a comment (with my name - I don't do "anonymity") to his article stating, "You sound bitter. Bitter as the wine that you're claiming tastes of vinegar." Surprisingly enough, as of this morning, Captain Wow’s blog is no longer. Perhaps he didn’t "wow" enough readers.

And this morning, I received an AP article published in the New Hampshire Concord Monitor: "A Higher Price Tag Tickles The Taste Buds Better Study: Wine's Cost Influences Pleasure."

The article states that the results from a wine taste test showing higher prices on a bottle of wine really do "make" wines taste better. California Institute of Technology asked 20 people to sample wine while undergoing MRIs of their brain activity. The 20 people were told they were tasting five different Cabernet Sauvignons sold at different prices. However, they really only sampled three Cabs, as two of the wines were offered twice and marked with different prices of $90 (real price) and again marked $10 and another Cabernet was marked at $5 (real price) and marked again at $45.

Apparently the wine-tasting brains showed more pleasure at the higher prices than the lower prices and - - they were the same wines! Tasting once again, without knowing the prices, the wine tasters liked the $5 wine better! But, CIT also admits that their subjects were not wine professionals and CIT hopes that wine pros would be able to tell the difference.

Hmmm...I thought it was a very interesting article because in my former life, as a tasting room attendant, I discovered the very same thing. It’s those certain terms and numbers that can make a sale. I found that about 85% of the wine tourists are adamant about not tasting white wine. Often they will walk in a winery door, nose in the air, hissing, "We don’t doooo white winesssss." However, once I informed those naysayers of white wines that one of the white wines offered for tasting was made the French-style and by a winemaker from France. Interesting how "zeh Fronch" got their attention.

"Oh. French you say? Well gimme a little taste then", as smugness drooled from their lips. And more times too many a wine tourist would say, "I only want to taste your wines that have a 93 and above given by the Wine Spectator." To that comment I would often think, "What? You don’t trust your own taste buds?"

And of course, this all makes me wonder - if Washington State wines like Leonetti, Quilceda Creek and Cayuse put a $5.00 tag on their wines, would self-described "wine aficionados" really understand the quality of these wines or just walk away from them without even giving them a second look, let alone a taste?


Karmyn R said...

My husband and I hold a wine-tasting party every year. We select the type and each couple brings their favorite vintage. We bag and drink them "unknown" and then have an big unveiling at the end.

Believe me - the $2 Chuck tastes like $2. Usually, the more expensive wine tastes better.

wild walla walla wine woman said...

I agree with you that 2-Buck-Chuck tastes like $2. And as CIT pointed out, their subjects were not wine professionals. It would be interesting to see what kind of wine background their subjects did have. Probably wine lovers/enthusiasts (not necessarily professionals) would be able to tell the differences between a $2 Buck Chuck and a great Washington State Merlot or Cabernet. Thanks for writing!

Steve said...

It is funny how much people have bought into the Wine Spectator/Robert Parker ratings. I'm not sure why people do not trust their own palates? Maybe they're just afraid they'll look stupid? In the end, if you are true to your palate, you will drink better wine.

The lesson I brought home from the article is how important pricing is as a component of the marketing puzzle. We all probably knew that already, but it never ceases to amaze me.


steve sheriff said...

the short time of my expereiences tasting wines, I have learned the kind of person who automatically blows away the quality of any wine in an effort to raise themselves went into wine, in the first place, not to learn, but to, by making other feel inferior, make themselves something they will never be. Since most people don't really know too much, the lure proves unresistable. The person at the tasting or writing of tastings, who smashmouths the efforts of others, is usually new, and young. The real problem lies like an IED in the road, awaiting some stupid remark that tells all, all.

When I read Cpt WoW! remarks, his true identity was instantly revealed. Some may have wanted to believe, but the owner of this blog spot saw it as well. Nice work, CCatie.

of the couple of wines I have so far had the pleasure to same, only two were bothered by VA. Both were obviously bottled that way, as no other way could this occur.

Good reading. The nazi history book was fascinating, somewhat historical, not really much about the wine. I have had a few of those WWII vintages, none were memorable, except the d'Yquem Catie has.

I am unsure if I can offer much advice, being in such exalted company, but were some question left unansewered, I should be happy to apply what simple knowledge and expeirice as allowed.

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