Are Italian Wine or Swiss Chocolate Really Better? A Revealing Taste Test


'Italian' Wine vs. 'Indian' Wine

Chocoholics might be offended by this bit of trickery, but they are probably safer prey than wine enthusiasts, who can become rather unpleasant when someone suggests that wine from India might be just as fine as wine from Italy. Wilcox said India was chosen for the experiment because another study indicated that the country is an "emerging" wine producer with considerable promise.

"There are certain regions in India that actually have a perfect climate for growing grapes," he said. But your local liquor store probably doesn't have a single bottle of wine from India.

So, as expected, the patrons (ages 21 to 72) who were told where the wine came from before taking part in Wilcox's taste test liked the wine from Italy better than the wine from India. But when other participants learned the origin immediately after tasting the wine, they liked the wine from India better. Maybe it tasted better than they would have expected, so it seemed tastier, as Wilcox suggested.

Can we really be that easy to fool? Yes, according to other researchers. Several studies have shown that knowing the cost of an item can influence judgment, because if it's more expensive it must be better, right? And meat that's 75 percent lean is a lot healthier than meat that's 25 percent fat. And expensive wine must be tastier than cheap wine.

Not according to restaurant critic Robin Goldstein, editor of the Fearless Critic and a frequent contributor to several publications. Goldstein, who holds degrees in neurology, philosophy and law, published a study in the Journal of Wine Economics (there really is such a journal) that involved several hundred participants.

The study maintained that expensive wines are overrated, a claim that is consistent with another study showing that the label counts more than the contents when it comes to deciding which bottle to buy.

Goldstein, however, came under attack from several quarters, including the editorial page of the Boston Globe. When one treads across the wine field, one must tread with caution.

Wilcox, who sounds like he knows a bit about fine wines, said the problem when it comes to judging wines is that we don't all approach the subject on the same plain.

"I think the average consumer's taste buds just aren't that refined," he said. "What the connoisseur might consider to be a high-end wine that should cost a lot of money isn't necessarily going to translate to the average consumer's taste."

Some of us, apparently, will be quite happy when the wine from India finally arrives.

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