There is no difference between cheap and expensive wine

There is no difference between cheap and expensive wine

Can anyone tell the actual quality of particular wine? Can anyone rally say that wine A is better than wine B? How does American wine stack up against European wine? And more particularly how does Napa Valley Wine Stack Up against French wine? Can we ever truly come to the conclusion of such questions? There is a very well-known wine tasting within the wine industry that occurred back in May of 1976. A famous wine merchant named Steven Spurrier, a British wine expert from Paris France, organized a wine tasting called the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976. What was to happen at this wine tasting would shock the wine universe.

What was so shocking about this tasting is that the crème de la crème of the French wine establishment, in a blind taste test, held that the lesser known and less respected Californian wines were of better quality and taste than the expensive and prestigious French wines. What was also humorous abut this whole debacle was that the victory of the French wines was a foregone conclusion and so only one reporter showed up for the event.

What this did was it shook up the wine establishment because up until this point everybody just assumed that French wine was the best. A lot of people at the time thought that this was just a publicity stunt and that Mr. Spurrier who owned a wine merchant business was just trying to drum up business. This ended up not being the case.

We can take this even a step further and remember another taste testing that ended in ambiguity. This was in Princeton New Jersey. At this time it was French wine that was at the top or considered to the best quality in both red and white wine categories. In this wine tasting competition it was determined that the New Jersey wines actually were on par with the French wines and even crazier still the New Jersey wines that were in this competition cost about 5% what the French wines cost, which highlights the insanity that is prevalent within the wine industry. Is there really a difference between a cheap and expensive wine?

The Princeton Professor Richard Quant even said of this tasting that the wines were statistically indistinguishable from each other! So let’s just say that we held the wine tasting again, we could speculate that since the wines were almost indistinguishable, or “statistically” indistinguishable, that the New Jersey wines may very well have won the second round. This leads one to believe that if these statistically underrated New Jersey wines taste as good as world-class French wines and only cost about 5% of what the French wines cost what can we ascertain about the state of the global wine industry?


It leads me to believe that the wine industry is rife with misunderstanding and with perceptual ambiguity that could even be considered graft of a sort. Wine experts from the University of Bordeaux have even written on the subject saying that in many circumstances that the differences of rotten grape juice are so slight that the nuances become muddled after a few sips, and there is huge disagreement between expert wine tasters on the subtleties of the different notes and flavors of the same wine varieties. It is very hard to distinguish quality once you’ve had a couple sips as the taste buds become desensitized to the taste of the wines, so wrote another wine expert.

There was even one test at the University of Bordeaux where the experts were asked what they thought of two different glasses of red wine. These particular wines were actually just white wine colored with red food coloring and the experts still referred to the “red” wine in their typical language which was representative of the “red” wine variety, which highlighted the fact that they really dint have a clue of the white wine ruse that was being played on them. On another occasion, in another wine study, cheap wine was put into bottles of expensive wine and experts also disagreed on quality, taste, and overall value of the wines being tasted.

So when a non-expert hears these things we really must take into consideration that if even experts cannot tell the difference between different wines how can anyone say which one is better, Napa Valley, New Jersey, Texas, France anyone can say anything about these different wine varieties. So can we come to the conclusion that we are being taken by the wine industry if statistically not even experts can tell the difference?

How can these wine dealers in good conscience say that a $150 bottle is of better quality than a $20 bottle of wine? So let’s go a step further and say that we can’t even state that wine A is better in any way shape of form than wine B. Let’s take a look at another case study in which a Bordeaux was put up against a California Cabernet. Now some might argue that these things can never be quantified and should never even be considered (and some have actually said just that). Bordeaux is a good wine and it’s an expensive wine but since the 1976 debacle where the California Cabernet actually beat the Bordeaux in the 1976 wine tasting the Bordelaise have been up in arms about the validity and quality of the wine they produce. This has even led the growers and the vintners to an infighting which has caused prices on Bordeaux to decrease significantly.


One could go so far as to say it is the egos in the hubris of the wine makers that cause the inflated prices and over exemplified branding to take place. Even with all of our technological advances and with all the different ways of testing these different wines we still come up with inconclusive data because no one metric can say it is better than another. Just like religion a lot of these things are relative; what may be good to you is not to me and vice versa. What you believe is not what I believe but it is relatively right within your sphere of influence but not within mine. Your tastes might lean towards a Cabernet my tastes May lean towards a Bordeaux but who is to really say which one is better? This leads me to believe that overpriced wines are simply a tactic to win the vintners more of your money.

So coming full circle, which one is better Napa Valley wine or a French wine? I don’t think anyone can actually say which one is better because statistically neither is better.

What it comes down to is preference and taste. Maybe even loyalty to a brand because we know that brand loyalty is very significant in marketing and if you want a French Bordeaux then drink a French Bordeaux if you want a California Cabernet then drink a California Cabernet. I personally would rather spend my money on a California wine because I was born and raised in California so my loyalty will be to spend money with locals. Whatever your preference just remember when you’re going to drop $100 on a nice wine, is it really worth it? Buying the label or buying the bottle and the prestige of the wine may not be better than saving your money for a good experience and just spending $30 on a decent bottle of wine which to me seems statistically better and overall more practical.

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