Cheap vs. expensive wine - Can you taste the difference?

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- When it comes to impressing our guests, we sometimes feel the need to splurge on a nice wine. But does price really matter?

We set out to find the answer at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's Champion Wine Garden. The Wine Garden's vice chairman Tamara Atkins set up an experiment to see if taste testers could tell the difference between three wines at different price points.

Atkins chose three of the Wine Garden's award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon wines ranging in price from $10 to nearly $70. We asked six self-proclaimed Cabernet lovers to the test to see if they could distinguish the cost of each wine in a blind tasting.

Wines we tested:
Low: Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, 2012 - $10/bottle retail price
Medium: Shirvington Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, 2010 - $45/bottle retail price
High: Saddleback Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2010 - $69/bottle retail price

Once the taste testers made their decisions, answers were all across the board. Of the six people, only two were able to pick the most expensive wine. Two people even thought the least expensive wine was the priciest.

Only one of the six was able to correctly match each wine with the correct price, but even she admits it was probably a lucky guess.

The results: (Ranked in order of which they thought was most expensive)
Wine Lover #1 - Low, Medium, High
Wine Lover #2 - Low, High, Medium
Wine Lover #3 - High, Medium, Low
Wine Lover #4 - Medium, High, Low
Wine Lover #5 - Medium, Low, High
Wine Lover #6 - High, Low, Medium

So why all the confusion?

"What really confuses people is the grapes. This is the same grape, it just comes from three different parts of the world," Atkins said.

Atkins says wine drinkers can zoom in on the labels and get stuck drinking the same things.

"They know certain labels of wines and they know they like those wines, so they tend to stay with that," Atkins said.

Her advice is to test several different wines, perhaps at the Wine Garden, and get a taste for what you prefer.


The Champion Wine Garden is open each day of the Houston Rodeo and admission is free.
To see the Wine Garden's complete menu, visit
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