I recently came across a study by psychologists from three international universities where the connection between supposedly high wine prices and positive sensory evaluation was examined. A total of 140 laymen blind-tasted three Italian red wines at three different price points – entry level, mid-price and premium – from EUR8.50 to EUR60.

The wines were presented in three different scenarios. When the expensive wine was presented as a cheap wine, no better rating was achieved. In the opposite case, when the cheap wine was presented as an expensive wine, it was rated more favourably. If there were no price indications on the wines, the tasters could not rate any wine as significantly better. Conclusion? The cheapest wine was considered better if it was thought to be an expensive wine.

As a matter of fact, there have been a few studies like this, and the results were all the same. Is it true that vanity always gets in the way of reality? How do we get around this?

The best way is to do a blind tasting, At the just finished Bubble Wonderland sparkling wine experience pop-up shop, where over 200 sparkling wines from around the world were showcased, South Africa invited customers to take part in the Cap Classique Challenge (Cap Classique is the South African version of champagne).

Two wines were presented, and players needed to guess which one was the champagne. The result? Around 50% got the answer wrong, and even more people preferred the Cap Classique. After the prices were disclosed, everyone was genuinely surprised. This challenge was done last year with wine professionals, and the results were similar.

We usually talk about quality-to-price ratio or value for money. However, these terms only apply to wine (or, in fact, any product) that has quality to start with. Otherwise, even if a wine only costs HK$30 but is of poor quality, it will still be expensive.

Value-for-money wines are not necessarily entry level. They are just cheaper than their more famous counterparts, but they offer similar or higher quality. With so many wines made in so many countries, I can’t emphasise enough that we should taste broadly rather than only drink the few popular labels or countries we know. Even in France, there is bubbly made outside Champagne called crémant that is worth exploring.

There are a few pop-up wine/liquor shops on Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay, in the coming weeks, including French GourMay (basement level on Cleveland Street next to Nike, from now until 23 May), Whisky Live and German Berlin pop-up bar (Paterson Street next to LOG-ON, 21 May–13 June and 18–27 June respectively). Guided tastings by experts will be offered. Drop by to explore the many value-for-money gems.

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A marketer turned winemaker, I make, promote, judge, write about and drink wine.

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