The (Culinary) Power of Suggestion

The science geniuses over at Cornell University have quantified what we’ve always known in our hearts: Most fancy-wine drinkers are suckers. In “Key to Good Cooking: Trickery,” ABC News reports that a bottle of Charles Shaw wine, passed off as fine wine from either North Dakota or California, tasted radically different to the diners who tried it.

Those who thought the wine was from North Dakota (the last state to get a winery) reported a low satisfaction with the meal as a whole and the wine specifically. Those who thought the wine was from California reported having a much better meal experience.

‘We found that people who were drinking the California wine stayed about 12 minutes longer,’ [Cornell professor Brian] Wansink said. ‘They ate more of their meal. They rated the food and wine as being very tasty, and they were more likely to make a reservation to return within the next three months.’

‘The eating wasn’t quite so special for the people served the North Dakota wine,’ Wansink added. ‘They ate faster. They left more food on their plates. They rated both the food and the wine as not tasting as good. And they were less likely to make reservations to come back.’

Yet, the only difference was the false labels.

This is highly reminiscent of the recent Stanford study that demonstrated that kids think everything tastes better when it’s in McDonald’s packaging.

And it also echoes a humiliating experience from my college days, wherein a roommate challenged me to discern my favorite vodka (top-shelf Belvedere) from good old Smirnoff. It was going to be a no-brainer, I figured. My track record? Four out of six shots … guessed wrong.

These days, I use a Brita filter to quadruple-filter Kamchatka vodka ($11 for 1.75 liters). It takes a little work, but the stuff is indistinguishable from top-shelf.

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