An article in today's Dining section of the Times talks about whether enjoyment of wine is affected by outside factors such as the circumstances in which you drink it, or knowing how much it cost.
Studies like this seem to come up every so often, so this is no big surprise. But what these studies have never taken into account, as far as I know, is the subjects' attitudes towards money. I think that a frugal-minded personal finance blogger might be more likely to enjoy a cheap wine just because it's cheap. I know I can be this way-- sometimes I probably like things just because I am so happy I got a bargain when buying them. Someone who really values saving money might not enjoy an expensive wine just because they want to believe that a cheap one is just as good.
The researchers scanned the brains of 21 volunteer wine novices as they administered tiny tastes of wine, measuring sensations in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain where flavor responses apparently register. The subjects were told only the price of the wines. Without their knowledge, they tasted one wine twice, and were given two different prices for that wine. Invariably they preferred the one they thought was more expensive.
“Forget those blurbs about bouquets, body and berries,” one newspaper account crowed. “A meticulous new study found that the more people think a wine cost, the more they like it. And the less they think it cost, the less they like it.”
Big surprise. Sommeliers all over know that the hardest wine to sell in a restaurant is the cheapest bottle on the list. “Yeah, clients don’t want to be embarrassed in front of a date, so they don’t order the cheapest wines,” said Fred Dexheimer, the wine director of the BLT restaurant group. The fact is, the correlation between price and quality is so powerful that it affects not just our perception of wine but of all consumer goods.
On the other hand, someone who is very focused on attaining wealth and luxury goods and projecting a certain image of their financial status might be more likely to enjoy an expensive wine, because they believe expensive things should be better, and because they want to feel like their hard-earned money is buying them the kind of rewards they deserve. After all, if expensive things aren't better, there's no value to being rich, right?
Obviously, the answer is for some researchers to set up a study comparing the wine tastes of personal finance bloggers to those of the rest of the population at large. I hereby volunteer to be your first guinea pig!