By Ian Neubauer
A US study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has proven the human brain makes judgements on the quality of wine based on price rather than stimuli provided by aroma and taste.
The California Institute of Technology study asked subjects to rate the quality of three different wines while a MRI machine measured activity in the medial orbital prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that detects pleasure. Subjects demonstrated increase brain activity when consuming a wine they were told cost more. Subjects also said they preferred what they thought to be more expensive wines after price tags were switched around by those monitoring the survey.
The survey results were widely syndicated among media outlets around the world today. China’s Xinhua news service published the story under the headline “Drinkers Are Fooled by Prices of Wines,” while Bloomberg USA filed the story under the banner “Brain Scans Reveal Secret to Tastier Wine: Jack Up the Prices.”
Wine experts agreed the findings were well-known in the trade, while academics said the findings mirrored earlier research conducted on consumer behaviour.
“People pay high prices for water from Italy, and we know that water tastes about the same wherever it comes from,” Professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, George Loewenstein, told The Los Angeles Times.
“I was [once] told by a sommelier at a top restaurant in California that he couldn’t sell wine that was priced at under $100 at bottle," wine expert Jancis Robinson told the BBC. “He was able to sell the same wine when he raised the price to more than $100.”