"Why we can't tell good wine from bad" - well, now we know!

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Todd F r e n c h
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"Why we can't tell good wine from bad" - well, now we know!

#1 Post by Todd F r e n c h » March 19th, 2013, 11:38 am

http://lifehacker.com/5990737/why-we-ca ... e-from-bad

Interesting perspective here, stating that none of us really know anything, and we are quite easily duped. I guess this is a good reason why I didn't 'wow!' on every utterance about the Haut-Brion and Lafite tasting notes posted.

Imagine how much time and money we are wasting! pepsi
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#2 Post by Joe B » March 19th, 2013, 11:50 am

Well that's it. I'm done
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#3 Post by Todd F r e n c h » March 19th, 2013, 11:52 am

Joe B wrote:Well that's it. I'm done
I replied to this ridiculous article in the comments section below it.
the most obvious scientific experiment here is that you are composing in a ridiculously inaccurate and flaming style to pimp your book. Your assertions are laughably one-sided and lacking any correlative study. I will accept ANY wine tasting challenge you assert would trick me, and can come up with hundreds of others that would pass such tests without fail. Using the results from two isolated tests is meaningless. Here is a test recently performed (this weekend) where individuals were tasting wines from the same Chateau, and correctly identified specific vintages, blind. (posted the notes from the Haut-Brion and Lafite tasting flights from this weekend)
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#4 Post by Mel Hill » March 19th, 2013, 11:58 am

Good luck getting coherent responses to your comment.
Tell the truth, it's all the Pepsi bashing he does in the lower part of the article that
Is the real issue for you! pepsi

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#5 Post by mike pobega » March 19th, 2013, 12:10 pm

Low information journalism just filing in the space where words should exist.

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#6 Post by Joe B » March 19th, 2013, 12:12 pm

I hate coke.
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#7 Post by Peter Kleban » March 19th, 2013, 12:13 pm

Wait a minute, there's an obvious lesson here. And a solution for what to do with all of Rudy's empties. Just put our wines in them and they will taste much better!

(as in the wonderful idea of "tasting the label" in the Champagne thread)
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#8 Post by Brian Gilp » March 19th, 2013, 12:20 pm

Actually, there is something to this expectation thing for most people. I did a very non-scientific experiment one day when running the tasting room. I told every group I had that day a different description of the wine and all of them agreed with me. They could have been just being nice but most of them seemed genuine. Sometimes it took a second or third taste to find it but they all found whatever I told them they would taste.

Another time, the winemaker sent me home with two bottles to taste and report back on next time I worked. Both red. Long story short, I tasted what I expected but one was a Chard that had been run through the filter right after the Merlot so was a light red, the other was a cherry wine (we never made fruit wines). In hindsight both were fairly easy to guess. The cherry wine was the easiest but since we did not make a cherry wine, the only answer that made sense was that it was a newer bottling of Pinot.

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#9 Post by Tran Bronstein » March 19th, 2013, 12:36 pm

While I agree the writer's experiments are flawed, I am also a complete believer that our expectations of a wine may alter our perceptions of it having both seen others do it and experienced it once by accident myself. Price, especially, is very misleading to consumers.

Here's my experience. I previously posted a tasting note on a Niagara trip where I did a tour and luncheon and was expecting to be served a Jackson-Triggs Riesling icewine with the dessert and so I tasted the pineapple and lemon-lime flavors I was expecting and talked it up to people at my table sure that it was a great Riesling icewine. Only later did I see the empty bottles by chance and see that they were in fact an earlier release of a Vidal icewine.

Rather than embarrass me, however, this actually pleased me when it happened. Now the thing is, when this happened I didn't suddenly start tasting classic peach and apricot flavors in the icewine once I learned the true identity and declare that the wine just needed to "open up" in order to try and cover up my "error." I had some more and confirmed I was tasting what I believed I was tasting.

So I informed my table of the true identity of the icewine and told everyone that given how much we all enjoyed it and how close to a Riesling it was, it was a steal at the price they were offering in the store boutique upstairs. Bottles ended up leaving the shelves. And that's why I get along with wineries so well. :)

I think what the writer wrote about says more about people's perceptions and how expectations play on them than actual wine tasting ability. I could've substituted beer, cheese, liquor, anything in such an experiment. I understand why when it comes to price, however. Nobody wants to feel like they're an idiot who got taken for their money so we will consciously or unconsciously try to justify the high price of things we buy even if the quality is clearly lacking.
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Re: "Why we can't tell good wine from bad" - well, now we know!

#10 Post by Todd F r e n c h » March 19th, 2013, 12:47 pm

I don't think it is less than universally accepted that casual wine drinkers can't tell the difference between one and another wine, but the author asserts that 'experts' cannot, either, by using two ridiculous tests as proof. I'd love to have a handful of Berserkers do the same thing, even double blind, and see what happens. To say that many of us couldn't identify which wine was Menage e Trois and which was Chateau Lafleur is just silly.
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#11 Post by M. Dildine » March 19th, 2013, 1:08 pm

Todd F r e n c h wrote: To say that many of us couldn't identify which wine was Menage e Trois and which was Chateau Lafleur is just silly.
I agree, although I also believe that built-in bias, romantic notions, emotional attachments, etc. can strongly influence taste perception.
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#12 Post by c fu » March 19th, 2013, 1:12 pm

really good comment on the feed
I'm in awe at how much BS is in this article. Can I tell the difference between wines? No, because I don't drink wine. Put two IPAs in front of me, though, and I'll not only tell you what brand each is, but what year they were made. And HD vs. Standard Definition? You've got to be kidding me.

All it boils down to is experience level and education. Just because some random people couldn't tell the difference between a pinot noir and a cab doesn't mean nobody can.
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#13 Post by jdietz » March 19th, 2013, 1:23 pm

Todd F r e n c h wrote:
Joe B wrote:Well that's it. I'm done
I replied to this ridiculous article in the comments section below it.
the most obvious scientific experiment here is that you are composing in a ridiculously inaccurate and flaming style to pimp your book. Your assertions are laughably one-sided and lacking any correlative study. I will accept ANY wine tasting challenge you assert would trick me, and can come up with hundreds of others that would pass such tests without fail. Using the results from two isolated tests is meaningless. Here is a test recently performed (this weekend) where individuals were tasting wines from the same Chateau, and correctly identified specific vintages, blind. (posted the notes from the Haut-Brion and Lafite tasting flights from this weekend)
Now we have 3 data points...
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#14 Post by Joe B » March 19th, 2013, 1:30 pm

Well the thread topic says people can't tell good wine from bad. And for me that is bs. I may not be able to taste the cream cheese Danish or bramble berries from the boysenberries but I can taste bad wine and tell the difference from the good.
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#15 Post by Todd F r e n c h » March 19th, 2013, 1:32 pm

jdietz wrote:
Todd F r e n c h wrote:
Joe B wrote:Well that's it. I'm done
I replied to this ridiculous article in the comments section below it.
the most obvious scientific experiment here is that you are composing in a ridiculously inaccurate and flaming style to pimp your book. Your assertions are laughably one-sided and lacking any correlative study. I will accept ANY wine tasting challenge you assert would trick me, and can come up with hundreds of others that would pass such tests without fail. Using the results from two isolated tests is meaningless. Here is a test recently performed (this weekend) where individuals were tasting wines from the same Chateau, and correctly identified specific vintages, blind. (posted the notes from the Haut-Brion and Lafite tasting flights from this weekend)
Now we have 3 data points...
Exactly my point. I dig back 2 days and find another data point that completely contradicts his assertion.
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#16 Post by ky1em!ttskus » March 19th, 2013, 1:39 pm

The problem with the article is that the author is using a study conducted on A and applying the results to B without having done the same study twice. Non-wine drinkers likely can't tell much about a wine other than they like it or not. (NB: for some reason, non-wine geeks think that we, the wine geeks, think this is somehow a bad thing which is absurd. Rumors of our judgmental attitudes have been greatly exaggerated.) Wine geeks, like ourselves, study wine and thus know more about it. Incredibly poor logic to assume that A's reaction = B's reaction because they're both letters.

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#17 Post by RS Beck » March 19th, 2013, 1:45 pm

Part of the problem, is that I don't see all of the variables eliminated from the study.

A lot of people will tell the experimenter what he/she wants to hear because the social interaction is more important to them than the scientific study going on - they want to please and agree with the person directing the experiment and don't want to make waves by insisting that there is no difference be tween the wines when the experimenter asks for differences, etc. etc.

If what it appears is true, then this isn't a study of people's perception regarding wine and television sets, it is a study of human social interaction. The conclusion being that people would rather get along than engage their perception when their perception could threaten the social interaction.

Having said that, expectation bias absolutely exists and must be eliminated from any credible scientific study.

On the other hand, if this is true, "Expensive wine is like anything else that is expensive, the expectation it will taste better actually makes it taste better." Then, IMO, this is a good reason for raising one's expectations. What an easy way to make wine taste better, right?

However, the problem with the study is that the subjects did not buy the wine. If they had and had paid more for one than the other - and - you eliminate the social constraints, then you might have received far different results. The price paid and raised expectations could militate against the perception that the expensive wine was better - or worth the price, etc.

There are thousands of notes on CT that support my point. A quick scan through any random selection of notes will reveal lots of tasters who are disappointed by expensive and highly rated wines.
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#18 Post by Bruce Leiser_owitz » March 19th, 2013, 2:25 pm

As has been noted on various threads over the years, expectations can bias results in both directions. In some cases, because the taster "knows" he/she is tasting an expensive wine, that may cause them to rave about the wine more than they would if tasted blind. Conversely, one can be very disappointed to learn that a wine that costs $300 (or whatever) tastes good but not great.

But it is one of the reasons why I like tasting wine completely blind from time to time. I've got a blind tasting organized for next weekend, and I'm looking forward to people's perceptions without their knowing what they are drinking.

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#19 Post by c fu » March 19th, 2013, 2:27 pm

Bruce Leiserowitz wrote:As has been noted on various threads over the years, expectations can bias results in both directions. In some cases, because the taster "knows" he/she is tasting an expensive wine, that may cause them to rave about the wine more than they would if tasted blind. Conversely, one can be very disappointed to learn that a wine that costs $300 (or whatever) tastes good but not great.

But it is one of the reasons why I like tasting wine completely blind from time to time. I've got a blind tasting organized for next weekend, and I'm looking forward to people's perceptions without their knowing what they are drinking.

Bruce
what is the "theme" of teh blind tasting?
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#20 Post by Glenn L e v i n e » March 19th, 2013, 3:07 pm

mike pobega wrote:Low information journalism just filing in the space where words shouldn't even exist.
It would move me with this little edit.
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#21 Post by S. Reynolds » March 19th, 2013, 3:33 pm

Ah, another debunk the experts article.

On a related note, a somewhat similar article came out in Slate recently: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/drin ... _wine.html

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Last edited by S. Reynolds on March 19th, 2013, 3:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#22 Post by Todd F r e n c h » March 19th, 2013, 3:34 pm

S. Reynolds wrote:Ah, another debunk the experts article that pimps the sale of a book.
FIFY
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#23 Post by S. Reynolds » March 19th, 2013, 3:35 pm

Todd F r e n c h wrote:
S. Reynolds wrote:Ah, another debunk the experts article that pimps the sale of a book.
FIFY
Even better!
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#24 Post by Jim V a n P e l t » March 19th, 2013, 3:53 pm

Todd F r e n c h wrote:
Joe B wrote:Well that's it. I'm done
I replied to this ridiculous article in the comments section below it.
the most obvious scientific experiment here is that you are composing in a ridiculously inaccurate and flaming style to pimp your book. Your assertions are laughably one-sided and lacking any correlative study. I will accept ANY wine tasting challenge you assert would trick me, and can come up with hundreds of others that would pass such tests without fail. Using the results from two isolated tests is meaningless. Here is a test recently performed (this weekend) where individuals were tasting wines from the same Chateau, and correctly identified specific vintages, blind. (posted the notes from the Haut-Brion and Lafite tasting flights from this weekend)
You nicely encapsulated, more eloquently than I would have, my reaction to the article. That said, I do think there's some general merit to the idea of label, marketing, WB raves, etc. influencing our perception of a given wine.

Cheers,
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#25 Post by Wes Barton » March 19th, 2013, 6:37 pm

RS Beck wrote:There are thousands of notes on CT that support my point. A quick scan through any random selection of notes will reveal lots of tasters who are disappointed by expensive and highly rated wines.
That's a good point. There are different phases we advance through as wine geeks. Once the illusion is broken of price equating to quality, or a critic's snapshot being infallible and objective, the bias erodes away.

I've been around people showing their red-white expectation bias. Wines such as Syrah can show peach notes, for example, and a lot of people don't ID it because it's not in their expected wheelhouse. But just because they don't ID it doesn't mean they aren't picking up something different. If you point it out, they get it. More importantly, once that lesson is learned, that barrier is down.
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#26 Post by Nathan L » March 19th, 2013, 7:29 pm

Simply because an individual experiences a placebo effect does not mean that a medication does not work. Similarly because we are influenced by our expectations does not mean we can't perceive reality. Life doesn't exist in a vacuum. Both expectations and reality occur in conjunction to create our experiences.
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#27 Post by ky1em!ttskus » March 19th, 2013, 8:05 pm

Nathan L wrote:Simply because an individual experiences a placebo effect does not mean that a medication does not work. Similarly because we are influenced by our expectations does not mean we can't perceive reality. Life doesn't exist in a vacuum. Both expectations and reality occur in conjunction to create our experiences.
Very well said. Expectations certainly affect our tastes. That doesn't completely negate our experience, though.

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#28 Post by Alan C h a n » March 19th, 2013, 8:47 pm

Some of the examples in the article are just silly, because they really are a matter of knowledge/ training. I can tell the difference between standard definition and HD in an instant.

That said, I do think wine is a bit different. I think even those who post here are influenced by expectations (as set by label, producer reputation, price level, etc.) more than they think. Would love it if we could organize a huge, board-wide double blind tasting experiment over an extended period of time to see if posters really do prefer board darling producers over less heralded but high-quality producers on a blinded basis, etc.
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#29 Post by Warren Taranow » March 20th, 2013, 8:09 am

Here's a great article on-topic by Clive Coates:

http://www.clive-coates.com/observations/blind-tasting

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#30 Post by GregT » March 20th, 2013, 4:31 pm

I agree with those who point out the differences between people with little knowledge and those with somewhat more. I've had people tell me that all wine tastes the same and other people who, tasting blind and not even knowing what they have, correctly guess a producer, or a nearby producer and even the vintage. It comes down to how familiar you are with it, just like recognizing that you're in the second act of Lady Windermere's Fan or the third movement of Mozart's fortieth symphony. Not a parlor trick, just long familiarity and knowledge and a decent memory.

That said, whether or not someone is a "professional" or not is a meaningless distinction. Some judging panels are random, rather like the Iron Chef panels - no particular knowledge at all is required. Other panels are more serious and they first give each judge a triangular test to see how perceptive they really are. They may or may not put the same wine in 2 of the three glasses they give you to try. If you can't identify which 2 are the same, or if you claim that 2 are the same and all 3 wines are different, you don't get on the panel.

In blind tastings with a group, the most important thing is that everybody shut up. You DON'T talk about the wine if your goal is to try to figure out what you have. Who wants to hear that someone gets notes of graphite or whatever - keep that all to yourself. Sharing is not helping. Reveal all that later. At our tastings, the rule is you can talk about everything except the wine until all scores are in. So the agreement of the crowd is a variable that needs to be addressed in the studies mentioned. It's a big problem with the Brochet study - he got these students all together. Should have tested them individually.

Another big problem with the article, or rather with the studies noted, is that the author assumes people correlate price with quality. Again, anyone who knows much about wine will call that for the BS it is. And it's the problem with the other Brochet study, although that one was probably more accurate for what it reveals about label bias.

Finally, many people really just don't know. I've tasted with MWs and Somms who were completely clueless when confronted with say, some CDPs of high repute and some other wines from similar grapes. Consistently, the people rated the wines they liked as the CdPs or whatever, and just as consistently, they were wrong.

Doesn't mean they're not "good" tasters or that the wines were good or bad, just that they didn't know the wines.
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#31 Post by Chris Seiber » March 20th, 2013, 5:07 pm

kylemittskus wrote:
Nathan L wrote:Simply because an individual experiences a placebo effect does not mean that a medication does not work. Similarly because we are influenced by our expectations does not mean we can't perceive reality. Life doesn't exist in a vacuum. Both expectations and reality occur in conjunction to create our experiences.
Very well said. Expectations certainly affect our tastes. That doesn't completely negate our experience, though.
+2. Labels and price can influence us, but there is also a big difference between great wines and plonk.

We've all seen that moment in a blind tasting when the wines are revealed, and people begin crawfishing back from their scores, guesses and notes that they gave in the blind tasting towards what they would have said had the wines been tasted non-blind.

"I think [the wine that I would have claimed to like better but gave a low score to] just hasn't been open long enough -- look, now it's really starting to come into its own."

"Yes, but this was really a better vintage in Napa than it was in Bordeaux, so the comparison isn't fair."

"Blind tasting isn't a good way to appreciate [the wine I would have claimed to like better but gave a low score to], you have to have it with a different kind of food and over a longer period."

"If we tried this tasting again 20 years from now, [the wine I would have claimed to like better but gave a low score to] would win hands down."

"Why the f*** does everyone keep slipping Teixier wines into every blind tasting I attend???" [cheers.gif]

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#32 Post by Phil M » March 20th, 2013, 5:08 pm

I fully suport this article and its logical conclusion - everyone (else) should stop buying expensive wines, particularly white Burgandy, Bordeaux and the usual Napa suspects (Screagle, Bond, Maybach, SQN and while we are at it, anything made by TRB). [snort.gif]
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Re: "Why we can't tell good wine from bad" - well, now we know!

#33 Post by Mike Heyse » March 21st, 2013, 6:17 am

Does "knowing" a wine make it better? I suppose being correct in a truly blind tasting about a particular wine being in a particular glass demonstrates that the producer is at a minimum consistent with their product. And to be sure, I can absolutely tell the difference between what I consider to be a good versus a bad wine. I think the real question is can you distinguish a good wine from a great wine? Good versus bad is a useless contest to me, because bad is so obviously bad. But a few $20 or so bottles I've had over the years have outpaced $100+ bottles. I did a genuinely blind tasting last year with my family using a $15 bottle of KJ Vintner's Reserve Cab, a $35 Ridge Cab blend, and a $70 GdL BV Cab. The KJ was #1 for everyone, and the BV was #3 for half. They were all properly decanted and served blind (poured from decanters that I didn't number). The true test would be to do a similar test where the drinkers don't know what bottles or perhaps even what varietal is being poured. I knew these were Cali cabs so it wasn't truly blind.

Lastly, I definitely believe in the power of the mind over the body, and your brain has a remarkable ability to trick you into perceiving something that is totally false. Tell someone at a wine tasting that you smell pencil shavings in the wine and 9/10 of them will say they smell it too. Not to be nice, but because you put the memory of that smell, and everyone has that memory, at the front of the mind.
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Re: "Why we can't tell good wine from bad" - well, now we know!

#34 Post by Scot H. » March 21st, 2013, 6:59 am

These are the same arguments used to tell people that they can't hear the difference between music played on audiophile equipment and a basic stereo, or the handling/ride on a Camry versus a BMW, etc. In common is the basic need to support a specific economic or other philosophy - "you were right for not spending the money/time on this esoteric subject and you are not missing out. In fact, you are smarter than those wine drinkers/car drivers/audiophiles/etc. I am even smarter for telling you about it."
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Re: "Why we can't tell good wine from bad" - well, now we know!

#35 Post by GregT » March 21st, 2013, 9:37 am

These are the same arguments used to tell people that they can't hear the difference between music played on audiophile equipment and a basic stereo, or the handling/ride on a Camry versus a BMW, etc.
Yep. And actually for the most part, I believe that people can't tell the difference. A lot of it depends on what you're paying attention to. I used to think that all bicycles were pretty much the same except for size. Since I keep having them stolen, I've had to go thru a few and each time I get a new one, I notice a difference. Not even so much because I was paying attention to it but because I was used to one thing and the new one just felt different. Now I totally get what people mean when they say a particular bike is "faster" than another, handles differently, etc.

Cars are pretty much the same. Even tho I'm from the Motor City, I'm pretty much totally indifferent to them, but I get that there's a group of people who know and appreciate the differences. Same with audio, pianos, shoes, pretty much anything there is. Since many of my interests center around food, I have a real hard time taking people seriously if they say they like chocolate and then eat a Snickers bar or some other such crap that a)only has a minimal amount of chocolate involved and that's in the coating, which b)isn't chocolate at all but is some kind of waxy brown substance. In the wine world, those are the people who I imagine would be subject to label bias. They don't know, haven't paid attention, and really can't tell. But that doesn't mean there aren't many people who are very much able to distinguish things.

And the white/red thing is really interesting. I've done a few of those with black glasses which are also supposed to fool people. They don't. At least if you know a little bit about wine. Every time we've done those, anyone who was relatively knowledgeable correctly identified the whites and the reds. I haven't done the food dye trick but I'd love to try that one too. If you can't tell that you're drinking the same wine side by side, well, that's kind of interesting.

Because we all know that there is only one thing that can possibly influence the taste of a wine.

The shape of the glass! [rofl.gif] [rofl.gif]
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Re: "Why we can't tell good wine from bad" - well, now we know!

#36 Post by S. Reynolds » March 21st, 2013, 11:32 am

Scot Hasselman wrote:...or the handling/ride on a Camry versus a BMW, etc....
Do people actually say this? That's insane. I don't know a lot about cars, but there is a clear visceral, physical difference in driving cars in each of these classes.
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Re: "Why we can't tell good wine from bad" - well, now we know!

#37 Post by David Glasser » March 22nd, 2013, 3:56 am

The article doesn't say that none of us know anything, though that seems to be what many took away from it. It says that expectation bias is real. I might get fooled by someone who put the Lafite in the Lynch bottle and vice versa without telling me, but I'm pretty sure I'd be able to identify which was which if both were presented single blind. These are two entirely different phenomena.

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Re: "Why we can't tell good wine from bad" - well, now we know!

#38 Post by Gene Vance » March 22nd, 2013, 6:14 am

The real message is not that we can't usually tell "good" wine from "bad," but that we are not objective beings. You can put people in different surroundings and get different results. How many times have we had the experience of enjoying food or drink in a charming place, and having the same food or drink later which disappoints? And, yes, as someone else joked, put a wine in a different glass and get different results. A group of oenology undergraduates is probably the most likely bunch in the world to try and show the authority figure that they know what is better about what appears to be the more expensive wine.

Then there is the magic of personal preference. The article and its tests are deeply flawed, but we are also fooling ourselves if we think wine judging is ever completely objective.

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Re: "Why we can't tell good wine from bad" - well, now we know!

#39 Post by Scott G r u n e r » March 22nd, 2013, 12:54 pm

Somewhat on topic... True blind tasting can be very humbling, IMO. I can do fairly well with a certain level of context, but in a 100% blind scenario I am often way wrong.

I do 100% agree that expectations are a key part though- More often than not, they lead to let-downs for me though. (as in, I expected more from this wine, this is a disappointing showing).

I think the one thing this article is missing is the correlation to the moon-phase.
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