Does Price Affect Taste?

January 16, 2012

A recent program on NPR invited a group of wine experts to try two different wines and determine if they could tell which was the lower priced wine and which was the higher priced variety based on taste and smell alone. The test was done to see if price affected taste.

The results were astounding … most of these experts couldn’t tell the difference between a $15 bottle and a significantly higher priced bottle. These are the same people who help set the prices.

So it got me thinking: Do we simply think something tastes better because it’s priced higher? I assumed so, but I set to find out using some of my Peepshow colleagues. The test was done with chocolate, olive oil, cheese and wine. All products we tested were high-end (no Velveeta here folks), but there was a significant price difference between the low and high ends.

Now before you check out our findings, please keep in mind my guinea pigs don’t claim to have a refined palette but that’s the beauty of this experiment. It’s the opinion of the everyday individual.

Cheese:
Two out of three preferred the more expensive cheese and all three guessed the more expensive cheese correctly.

Beeler Cave Aged Gruyere
Switzerland
$25.99 per pound

Swiss Gruyere
Switzerland
$13.59 per pound

Andrew Miller ponders the taste

Olive Oil:
Two out of three preferred the less expensive oil and even guessed it was the more expensive variety.

Sotaroni
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Arbequina olive variety
$19

Ybarra
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Arbequina olive variety
$8.99

Chocolate:
All 3 testers preferred the less expensive chocolate and they all guessed the more expensive chocolate correctly.
Kallari
70% Cacao
$5.49

Scharffen Berger
41 % Cacao
$3.59

Taste testers Dave Fransen, Andrew Miller and George Fiddler

Wine:

This yielded the most interesting result: Every one of the testers liked a different bottle and they guessed that the wine they liked best was the most expensive. I can only guess its because we think expensive wine should taste good. One of the testers actually spit out the most expensive wine calling it foul. It goes to show, the best wine is the wine YOU like best, not what others deem the best. At least for the average folk.

14 Hands
2009
Cabernet Sauvignon
Washington State
$13

Simi
2008
Cabernet Sauvignon
Alexander Valley, Calif.
$24

Ladera
2007
Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, Calif.
$38

If you’re interested in trying this at home, visit Surdyks. They took a lot of time out of their day to educate me on what types of products to test, the difference price breaks that produce different taste results and how things were made. It’s not only a great place for higher-end fare but its also run by a staff who takes pride in what they sell. Oh and it was a lot of fun!