Sunday, 10 April 2011

Objectifying Wine

When it comes to trying wine, studies have shown that there's a huge psychological component to the experience. For example, if you give people the same wine and change say to some that it's a $90 bottle while to others its a $10 bottle, the wine will be rated more highly if it's given a higher cost. The same white wine dyed to look red will taste sweeter for those who drank the white. Most interesting was a study that found under double-blind trials, general wine drinkers would prefer a cheaper wine to a more expensive one while professional wine drinkers prefer the more expensive but don't notice much of a difference.

When I first heard about how perceived cost can affect quality, I was quite shocked. The next time I went wine tasting I decided to try the wine before looking at how much it cost. One interesting find was a wine I rated really highly (an Otago Pinot Noir) turned out to have a price tag to match. It did make me feel somewhat vindicated that I was getting the quality from the wine, rather than imposing it psychologically.

But upon thinking about it more, the experience of the wine is what is being measured. I can't separate my psychology from the experience, and as much as I like the notion of the wine valuing itself, the reality is that the wine is only part of the experience. There's just no grounds for thinking that the wine itself needs to be the dominant factor. I can understand why people would like it to be, after all the taste and feel of the wine is what seems to be the totality of the experience. But a good wine is necessarily more than that, it's a means to an end and not the end in itself.

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