The secret of why expensive wines taste better

Would you pay AU$16,560 for just one sip of the world’s most expensive wine?

There are few people who could drink the whole 750ml Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1945 – which Sotheby’s sold for AU$828,000 in 2018 – without worrying about our resulting bank balance (or debt, let's be honest).

But here’s the fascinating secret to expensive wines.

According to the latest research in wine psychology, it’s only individuals with wine training who can produce a positive correlation between price and enjoyment in blind tastings.

For everyone else, they could enjoy a AU$10 bottle of any old red from Woolworths just as much as a AU$828,000 bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

Isn't that something?

The 6,000 people who didn't enjoy an expensive wine

In 2008, the Journal of Wine Economics published one of the most influential studies ever undertaken on blind wine tasting.

The study was called Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better?

Here’s what researchers found:

“Individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine. In a sample of more than 6,000 blind tastings, we find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less.”

In 2017 the University of Bonn put participants under an MRI as they all tasted the same wine, just were told it had a different price.

And low and behold – enjoyment of the wine increased when participants knew it had a higher price in advance. 

These two studies suggest our appreciation of expensive wines is quite arbitrary.

But hold on a minute.

The 2008 study is famous because researchers then gave blind tastings of different value wines to people with wine tasting experience.

Here’s what they found:

“For individuals with wine training, we find a positive relationship between price and enjoyment.”

How interesting, don't you think?

It means that expensive wines do taste better – but only to people who already love and appreciate wine.

And rightly so.

A more expensive wine is an indicator that the wine has had more careful, hands on attention in the vineyard. A higher price tag can let the winemaker take their time to properly macerate and ferment and age the wine, without needing to add extra additives, fining agents and preservatives because they rushed the process. 

To people in the know, the proof is in the tasting.

A vertical tasting is one of the best ways to develop your knowledge of – and love for – tasting wine.


How to develop your wine palate and appreciate expensive wines

Of course, we don't need to fork out hefty sums to get exponential enjoyment from wine.

But if you want to treat yourself once in a while, you’re going to need to start by building your wine tasting knowledge.


At UMAMU Estate in Margaret River, Australia, we are big believers in two methods to develop your wine palate:

1. Blind wine tastings

Blind wine tastings are fantastic because they get rid of everything you think should make a wine taste great – a wine terroir, a specific wine producer, a wine’s price – and leaves with just your base senses to rely on.

Even better, you can enjoy a blind wine tasting with friends!

You can find a free and downloadable blind wine tasting sheet we produced at UMAMU Estate by following the link.

The blog tells you how to conduct a blind wine tasting and the .pdf document guides you as you write down your best guess on a wine’s visuals, nose, palate, vintage, climate, grape, price, terroir and more.

2. Vertical and horizontal wine tastings

Vertical and horizontal wine tastings do not need to be done blind.

Instead, the idea is to buy a single blend from a single producer over different vintages.

If you have some information to hand about what the weather was like during a particular vintage you have a philosopher’s stone to learning how the seasons affect a wine’s taste.

A horizontal wine tasting is similar, except that you choose slightly different blends from the same vintage to see how different grapes affect taste.

We have the following vertical and horizontal wine packs on offer at UMAMU Estate:

Our vertical tastings have proven extremely popular – we even once had the wine club from the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland interview us to rave about their wine tasting experience!

If you’re interested in developing your palate with us, you can always reach out to for information on weather, harvest dates and blends for each vertical wine tasting pack.

Do expensive wines taste better?

If you can't tell a Cabernet Sauvignon from a Sauvignon Blanc, an expensive wine tag is not any guarantee a wine will taste better to you.

Enjoyment of an expensive wine is all down to your wine tasting experience.

While knowledge of wine terroir, individual producers and what such-and-such sommelier said about such-and-such vintage can help, it’s your base senses which will ultimately determine whether an expensive wine tastes better when compared blind.

At UMAMU Estate, we are passionate about encouraging people to develop their own wine palates and learning to rely on what their own body is telling them.

We find it’s the very best way to get the maximum enjoyment from wine.

Here’s to you finding fulfilment and satisfaction in every drop.