Cheap Wine vs. Expensive Wine: Can You Really Tell The Difference?

01/11/2013 04:40 pm ET | Updated Apr 26, 2016
  • Kristen Aiken Executive Food & Lifestyle Editor, The Huffington Post

Have you ever wondered whether an expensive, seemingly impressive bottle of wine really tastes better than a bottle of Three-Buck Chuck? For the layperson (i.e. anyone who's not a sommelier), drinking wine can be an especially psychologically driven experience, influenced by numerous factors: labels, price points, bottle appearance, and even your peers, just to name a few.

But take away all those factors, pour yourself a glass of wine, and take a taste. Without knowing the price or viewing the bottle, can you really tell the difference between a $65 bottle and a $3 bottle? What do your senses really tell you when those external factors and social influences are stripped away? We wanted to find out, so we set up a blind taste test in our office. Here's how it went down:

Each taster blindly tried two types of wine side-by-side, not knowing which was which. One was from an expensive bottle, and the other an inexpensive version from the same region. We did this with two reds (Cabernet Sauvignon), and then with two whites (Chardonnay). Testers recorded which wine they thought was the more expensive of the two, and left comments explaining why. Here are the results:

THE REDS
Cheap Red
Trader Joe's Charles Shaw Blend Cabernet Sauvignon (a.k.a. Three-Buck Chuck), California, 2011 -- $3

Expensive Red
Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Mountain, California, 2007 -- $65

Price difference: $62
Tasters' verdict: Only 38 percent of our tasters correctly identified the more expensive wine, and 62 percent preferred the $3 variety from Trader Joe's. Surprising, right? Think about how much more wine those tasters can get for their buck.

THE WHITES
Cheap White
Glen Ellen Reserve Concannon, 2010 Chardonnay, California -- $5

Expensive White
Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California -- $45

Price difference: $40
Tasters' verdict: 60 percent of our tasters correctly identified Cakebread Cellars as the more expensive wine, but many comments suggested there wasn't much difference between the two (see comments in the slideshow below -- and trust us, you'll want to read the comments).

There are two lessons to be learned from this. The first is that wine drinking is a subjective art. The second? Don't judge a wine by its price. (All the more reason to get out there and try some new wines, right?)

Check out the tasters' full comments on each wine in the slideshow below.

This story appears in Issue 37 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, Feb. 21.

Cheap Wine vs. Expensive Wine

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