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The Wine Trials


munga30

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So I've been telling everyone I can about The Wine Trials.

The authors conducted 17 brown-bag double-blind tastings across the country for more than 500 tasters, wine experts and non-experts, of over 500 wines, ranging from $1.50 to $150 per bottle, pouring more than 6000 glasses. Their methods were designed by winemakers and statisticians. So what did they find?

"... people actually preferred the cheaper wines to the more expensive wines--by a statistically significant margin."

The authors list reviews for 100 wines, widely available under $15, that outscored $50 to $150 bottles. One striking example was the Domaine Ste. Michelle sparkling wine ($12) that was preferred 2:1 over Dom Perignon ($150). The book also includes some interesting reading about bias in the wine industry and the placebo effect altering the wine drinking experience.

The authors explain their methods and outline conducting your own blind tastings. Its a quick read and a good reference. Pick up a copy.

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Some category winners:

Alice White Chardonnay, Australia, $7

Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon, United States, $14

Feudi de San Grigorio Falanghina, Italy, $14

Osborne Solaz, Spain, $9

Mark West Pinot Noir, United States, $11

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How cool is the label? That's all that really matters to me.

This is the biggest factor in the wine purchasing decision of women....Something you need to tell us EZ?Take for example yellow tail. It was sold as a different label and didn't sell well at all. They change to yellow tail but don't change the wine at all and I believe they are the largest imported wine in the U.S. now. I can't stand the stuff but the label, which I just don't get either, made the wine what it is.
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Wine Spectator does this every day. Expensive wines win out. I've had several blind tastings at my house with a mix of cheap and expensive wines. The expensive wines win 95% of the time.

Expensive wines are generally far better than cheap wines. Yes there is a placebo effect. There are overpriced wines. There are great wines under $20 and crappy wines over $100. But at the extremes - a $60+ wine is easily differentiated from a sub $10 wine.

By the way, "non-wine experts" greatly prefer Behringer White Zinfandel over Dom Perignon. I'm just sayin...

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How cool is the label? That's all that really matters to me.

Every review includes a picture of the bottle (or box) and "Design" is one of the three comments along with "Nose" and "Mouth". For the previously mention Avalon Cab:

"Aesthetically and taste-wise, this could pass for a $100 bottle. ... Design This might be the best looking bottle in the book. It's well textured, simple, powerful, and graceful--just like the wine. The warm color scheme is soothing, too. Bravo."

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Wine Spectator does this every day. Expensive wines win out. I've had several blind tastings at my house with a mix of cheap and expensive wines. The expensive wines win 95% of the time.

Expensive wines are generally far better than cheap wines. Yes there is a placebo effect. There are overpriced wines. There are great wines under $20 and crappy wines over $100. But at the extremes - a $60+ wine is easily differentiated from a sub $10 wine.

By the way, "non-wine experts" greatly prefer Behringer White Zinfandel over Dom Perignon. I'm just sayin...

Not necessarily. That's why these results were published both in an academic paper and in this book. Your specific example reminded me of this passage:

Interestingly, though, Wine Spectator, whose high scores appear even more closely correlated with high prices than [Wine Advocate's Robert] Parker's, makes almost as big a deal about blind tasting as I do. James Laube, one of Spectator's senior editors, has gone so far as to write a blog article about the importance of blind tasting. "Wine Spectator has always believed in blind tastings," Laube explains. "In practice, that means tasters review wines in coherent flights, to give context. We know the region, vintage, and grape variety, if relevant. But we don't know the producer or the price."

Consider that statement for a moment: the magazine critics are tasting blind, but the know the region, the vintage, and the grape variety. Let's say that it's a red wine, the appellation is Hermitage, and the vintage is 2005. The cheapest possible wine in the Spectator database that would fit those criteria costs $49. And, to their credit, the Spectator tasters certainly know enough about wine to know that Hermitage reds are going to be expensive In that example, then, they would know the price, or at least the price category, before tasting--which means that the wouldn't really be tasting blind. They'd know that they were tasting expensive wines, and they'd have full frontal exposure to the wine placebo effect.

At least Laube admits that his staff is only human. "Even the professionals 'miss' a wine now and then," writes Laube, "the same way the refs miss a call. But we believe that if we can eliminate any possibility of bias, we're at least giving you a fair and honest assessment of the wines." Lucky for Laube, it seems that his team of professionals hasn't "missed a call" and accidentally scored a wine under $10 abcve 91 in at least the last 6,475 tries.

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A bit about their methods that I found cool. Wines were served in flights of 6 glasses. In addition to rating various aspects of each wine, tasters were asked to rank all six glasses by preference, 1 to 6. The twist is that they were served only 5 different wines with one repeated twice as a baseline. The more closely the taster ranked the two glasses of baseline wine, the more weight was given to their rankings. The further apart, the lesser the weight. Pretty cool way to filter out those with less sensitive palates.

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Wine Spectator does this every day. Expensive wines win out. I've had several blind tastings at my house with a mix of cheap and expensive wines. The expensive wines win 95% of the time.Expensive wines are generally far better than cheap wines. Yes there is a placebo effect. There are overpriced wines. There are great wines under $20 and crappy wines over $100. But at the extremes - a $60+ wine is easily differentiated from a sub $10 wine.By the way, "non-wine experts" greatly prefer Behringer White Zinfandel over Dom Perignon. I'm just sayin...

This may all be true, but as a wine shmoe, I like the idea of getting my recommendation from other shmoes. FWIW I wasn't a huge fan of the Alice White Chardonnay, and both this book and Wine Spectator gave it a pretty high rating. So it still comes down to you like what you like.
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I've spent several years trying to find a sub $10 that I like. It's very difficult.

I liked the 2005 Pillar Box Red which was $9.99

I liked the 2004 Smoking Loon Cabernet which was $6.99

Neither one of those had much complexity, but just a good fruit/tannin balance.

I also like the 2005 Hess Cabernet which is $12

This is after trying maybe 200 sub $10 wines in the last few years.

I've *never* in my life had a great wine that was less than $15.

For reference, some of my favorite wines are Don Melchor, Paul Hobbs cabs, and Stags Leap cabs. Those are in the $60 - $100 range so I don't have them that often, but they are incredible.

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Some category winners:

Alice White Chardonnay, Australia, $7

Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon, United States, $14

Feudi de San Grigorio Falanghina, Italy, $14

Osborne Solaz, Spain, $9

Mark West Pinot Noir, United States, $11

best white wine on earth.

worked for them and sold it for years.

banana on the nose, you think it will be sweet, but then drinks and feels like a medium-full bodied white.

i keep a case on hand permanently.

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I've spent several years trying to find a sub $10 that I like. It's very difficult.I liked the 2005 Pillar Box Red which was $9.99I liked the 2004 Smoking Loon Cabernet which was $6.99Neither one of those had much complexity, but just a good fruit/tannin balance.I also like the 2005 Hess Cabernet which is $12This is after trying maybe 200 sub $10 wines in the last few years.I've *never* in my life had a great wine that was less than $15.For reference, some of my favorite wines are Don Melchor, Paul Hobbs cabs, and Stags Leap cabs. Those are in the $60 - $100 range so I don't have them that often, but they are incredible.

In fairness, the author's underlying message is very clearly "drink what you like," and admits the results are just starting point for exploring one's own palate. But blind tasting, in his opinion, is the best, maybe even only, way to do this. Seems like you would get value from the book's cost ($10 on amazon link above) from just the methodology and rating sheets.
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I've spent several years trying to find a sub $10 that I like. It's very difficult.I liked the 2005 Pillar Box Red which was $9.99I liked the 2004 Smoking Loon Cabernet which was $6.99Neither one of those had much complexity, but just a good fruit/tannin balance.I also like the 2005 Hess Cabernet which is $12This is after trying maybe 200 sub $10 wines in the last few years.I've *never* in my life had a great wine that was less than $15.For reference, some of my favorite wines are Don Melchor, Paul Hobbs cabs, and Stags Leap cabs. Those are in the $60 - $100 range so I don't have them that often, but they are incredible.

In fairness, the author's underlying message is very clearly "drink what you like," and admits the results are just starting point for exploring one's own palate. But blind tasting, in his opinion, is the best, maybe even only, way to do this. Seems like you would get value from the book's cost ($10 on amazon link above) from just the methodology and rating sheets.
A blind tasting with people that drink a lot of wine and know wine will vary in results to a blind tasting with your average grocery store traffic.You have to take into account the participants (which I didn't bother to read up on).
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  • 1 year later...

How cool is the label? That's all that really matters to me.

Every review includes a picture of the bottle (or box) and "Design" is one of the three comments along with "Nose" and "Mouth". For the previously mention Avalon Cab:

"Aesthetically and taste-wise, this could pass for a $100 bottle. ... Design This might be the best looking bottle in the book. It's well textured, simple, powerful, and graceful--just like the wine. The warm color scheme is soothing, too. Bravo."

Funny, I just bought a couple of bottles of this last week and they were clearing it out for $8 a bottle (normally $13). I wouldn't call it great but people were impressed by it, especially for the price.
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Some category winners:Alice White Chardonnay, Australia, $7Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon, United States, $14Feudi de San Grigorio Falanghina, Italy, $14Osborne Solaz, Spain, $9Mark West Pinot Noir, United States, $11

I kept this list on my phone notepad for over a year now.I've tried all of them. All are very solid.Prices are very YMMV compared to what's above. That Alice White is not often found for 7 bucks, but sometimes I find the West for 8. Most of the rest vary from 12-17 at times.
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Some category winners:

Alice White Chardonnay, Australia, $7

Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon, United States, $14

Feudi de San Grigorio Falanghina, Italy, $14

Osborne Solaz, Spain, $9

Mark West Pinot Noir, United States, $11

It is Feudi di San Gregorio. This Falanghina has been the best white wine on earth for me for 5 years running now.

Their Rubrato is a great red for around the same price. I have 4 cases of their wines in my cellar.. from Falanghina to Greco di Tufo to Rubrato to Serpico to their desert wine. Best winery in the world for across the board awesomeness imho. :eek:

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