Expectations from the New World: social interactions and wine quality.

I’ve read a lot of blog posts and newspapers talking about how to choose a wine in a supermarket. Most of them addressing wine labeling issues. What we can find and how to interpret the information stamped on a label.

In Europe this may not be so useful as wine culture is widespread in all social strata. I believe in the Old World it’s not so difficult for people to understand labels or even to understand what quality classifications and geographical indications of origin mean. However in the New World we can say that wine culture is not so entrenched outside the producing zones and people have some difficulty understanding labels and classifications. Maybe that’s why Parker became so famous with his ranking.

What I wanted to address in this post is not how to choose a wine, but the expectation we have when buying it. How much influence the label and price we pay for a bottle have on our expectation about the quality of the wine. Wine consumption in the New World is often associated with a special occasion and we can say that a dinner with a bottle of wine on the table is considered a special moment. Can this affect the perception of drink quality? Are we influenced by social factors in our perception of quality?

What I want to discuss is how much our quality assessment is influenced by issues not directly related to the wine itself as price, bottle and label beauty, urban legends, occasion etc. When I speak of urban legends I have a clear example of this. In Brazil an urban legend arose that a bottle of wine that had a concave bottom kept a wine of superior quality. Can you believe in such a nonsense thing?!

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