Cheap Eats and Posh Bottles

Do you get more enjoyment out of cheap food and expensive wine? That is, does eating an inexpensive meal provide the same self-satisfied buzz as consuming a pricey bottle of wine? Condé Nast Porfolio writer Felix Salmon seems to think that it does.

Salmon cites Frank Bruni of the New York Times, who is trying to make the best of the euro-dollar exchange rate in Italy and claims that a “plate of pasta goes down a lot easier at $12—it even tastes better at $12—than it does at $16.” Salmon believes that most people enjoy cheap eats because they are confident in their taste in food and don’t need a price tag to tell them what they like.

But when it comes to wine, Salmon argues that a high price “intimidates us into liking the bottle more.” He goes on to say:

When navigating a strange and scary and unfamiliar land—which is how most people feel when they enter a wine shop—one grasps at anything one knows, which means that people (a) buy brands they recognize, and (b) navigate by price, in the absence of any other means by which to narrow down the selection.

But is it fair to compare an affection for cheap food to a taste for cheap wine? As one commenter notes, wine prices tend to correlate with their point scores from Robert Parker, which “are considered quite accurate by experts and non-experts.” Thus, a bargain price may increase the appeal of a meal, but a cheap plate of pasta isn’t necessarily tastier than its more expensive counterpart. However, spendier wine, in most cases, really is better than cheaper.

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