Drinkers can’t tell the difference, study finds

2011-04-23 00:00

A BLIND wine-tasting test at a science fair in the UK found that volunteers were unable to distinguish between expensive and cheap wine.

The Guardian reports a survey of 578 wine tasters found that — on average — people could tell good wine from plonk no more often than if they had simply guessed.

In the blind taste test, the tasters had to comment on a variety of red and white wines ranging from a R40 bottle of Claret to a R300 bottle of champagne. The researchers categorised inexpensive wines as costing at R50 and less, while expensive bottles were R100 and more.

The study found that people correctly distinguished between cheap and expensive white wines only 53% of the time, and only 47% of the time for red wines.

The overall result suggests a 50/50 chance of identifying a wine as expensive or cheap based on taste alone — the same odds as flipping a coin.

Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at Hertfordshire University, said. “People just could not tell the difference between cheap and expensive wine. When you know the answer, you fool yourself into thinking you would be able to tell the difference, but most people simply can’t.”

Wiseman conducted the survey at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

All of the drinkers who took part in the survey were attending the science festival, but Wiseman claims the group was unlikely to be any worse at wine tasting than a cross-section of the general public. “The real surprise is that the more expensive wines were double or three times the price of the cheaper ones. Normally when a product is that much more expensive, you would expect to be able to tell the difference,” Wiseman added.

People scored best when deciding between two bottles of pinot grigio, with 59% correctly deciding which was which. The claret, which cost between R40 or R160, fooled most people with only 39% correctly identifying which of the two they tasted.

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