Question for you. It is possible for an expert to detect any difference between a cheap wine and and expensive one? People claim they can detect a cheap wine. Well here is an article from FREAKonomics. You may have been struck, for example, by the fact that some wines are so much more expensive than others. Do expensive wines really taste better? Some years back, one of us tried an experiment to find out. The setting was the Society of Fellows, a Harvard outpost where postdoctoral students carry out research and, once a week, sit with their esteemed elder Fellows for a formal dinner. Wine was a big part of these dinners, and the Society boasted a formidable cellar. It wasn’t unusual for a bottle to cost $100. Our young Fellow wondered if this expense was justified. Several elder Fellows, who happened to be wine connoisseurs, assured him it was: an expensive bottle, they told him, was generally far superior to a cheaper version. The young Fellow decided to run a blind tasting to see how true this was. He asked the Society’s wine steward to pull two good vintages from the cellar. Then he went to a liquor store and bought the cheapest available bottle made from the same grape. It cost $8. He poured the three wines into four decanters, with one of the cellar wines repeated. Here was the layout: DECANTER 1 – expensive wine A 2 – expensive wine B 3 – cheap wine 4 – expensive wine A When it came time to taste the wines, the elder Fellows couldn’t have been more cooperative. They swirled, they sniffed, they sipped; they filled out marking cards, noting their assessment of each wine. They were not told that one of the wines cost about one-tenth the price of the others. The results? On average, the four decanters received nearly identical ratings — that is, the cheap wine tasted just as good as the expensive ones. But that wasn’t even the most surprising finding. The young Fellow also compared how each drinker rated each wine in comparison to the other wines. Can you guess which two decanters they judged as most different from each other? Decanters 1 and 4 —which had been poured from the exact same bottle! These findings were not greeted with universal good cheer. One of the elder connoisseur-Fellows loudly announced that he had a head cold, which presumably gummed up his palate, and stormed from the room.