Wine: In praise of plonk - MoneySense

Wine: In praise of plonk

You can drink even better on a budget.

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If the recession means that you’ve switched to buying cheaper wine, we’ve got good news for you. You’ll probably enjoy the new plonk more than expensive vintages.

Most wine drinkers prefer inexpensive wines when they can’t see the label, says Robin Goldstein, a wine critic in New York City. Last year, Goldstein did a study for the American Association of Wine Economists in which people were served wines that had cost anywhere from a few dollars to $150 a bottle. The catch was that participants didn’t know whether the wine was expensive or not. Their evaluation was based solely on taste — and the result was clear. People with no wine expertise preferred wines that cost less than $15 and even drinkers with some wine expertise only slightly preferred expensive stuff. In the blind test, Domaine Ste. Michelle, an $11-a-bottle sparkling wine from Washington State, proved to be twice as popular as Dom Pérignon, which costs around $150 a bottle. Remove the price tag and cheap wines rule.

If you think that your exquisite palate can’t be fooled, don’t be so sure. Bob Hodgson, a winemaker in Fieldbrook, Calif., was stumped as to why his wines sometimes won gold medals at wine competitions and other times went home with nothing, so he set up an experiment at the California State Fair to test how consistent judges were in scoring. He arranged for judges to be presented with several glasses of wine in one sitting, but didn’t tell them three of the glasses were from the same bottle. If judges could reliably rate wine, the scores for the three glasses should have been identical, but “around 80% of the time” the scores were vastly different, says Hodgson, who published his study in the Journal of Wine Economics.

So go ahead and load up on the cheap stuff. Then tell your guests it’s a special vintage. Chances are they’ll love it. And so will your wallet.