Thursday, June 19, 2008

Price and Wine Enjoyment

I heard a story on NPR the other day about how people get better results from taking expensive pills — even when the "expensive pill" is a placebo with no active medical ingredients. It’s amazing what our minds will do when we anticipate that something is better.

The same results were discovered from research done on the correlation between enjoyment of wine and the price of the wine. The majority of the time, when people drank what they thought was a more expensive wine; they enjoyed it better than the less expensive wine. A wine that retailed for $90 was sampled by different groups of people. When they were told the true price, they loved it. When other people were told that the wine was just a $10 wine, they didn’t rate it as highly.

What’s even scarier to me is what was going on inside the test subjects’ brains. While the subjects tasted and evaluated the wines, their brains were scanned using an MRI, focusing on the activity of a brain region that is involved in our experience of pleasure. The researchers concluded that, "prices, by themselves, affect activity in an area of the brain that is thought to encode the experienced pleasantness of an experience”!

So much for trying to be objective about wine.

I’ve been facing a choice lately as my budget gets stretched with rising gas and food prices. Do I buy cheaper wine or quality wine less often? This study makes me think that perhaps I just need to learn more about what wines I like and find the great bargains out there. If I can learn to ignore the price tag and concentrate just on the wine itself, I may be able to drink wine with every dinner meal after all.

I wonder if that’s possible given the following statement from one of the researchers:

"If you think about it, the brain should only be influenced by the core components of the wine — its chemical composition. It should not be influenced by something like price," Shiv said. "But in the study we found a functional change in activity in different areas of the brain despite the same chemicals being experienced."

Maybe I need to have my wife buy all the wine and label each bottle with a price tag that says $100!

1 comment:

Alex said...

I find that seeking out the great bargains gives me quite a thrill (maybe I'm just weird). Yes, I love drinking the more expensive wines, but if I hit upon a £5 bottle of wine which drinks like it cost £8-10 then I'm really happy!

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