Wine at the Edinburgh Science Festival


They appear to have been having a bit of fun at the Edinburgh Science Festival. As a side note, thats running from 8-22 April, so if you are in the area, then you might like to check it out, details can be found here.

Anyway, so what happens when you get a bunch of science folks together? Well, they came up with an idea for a blind test to see if Wine costing less than £5 a bottle can have the same effect on the palate as those priced up to six times as much. Now since this is a psychological taste challenge you just know that Professor Richard Wiseman has got to be in the mix somewhere, and sure enough he is, his students ran the test and he announced the results. [As another side note, Richard is not only a truly cool bloke, and a leading skeptic in the UK, but also has some very well-written books you might like to check out, I’ll give you a few links later].

Anyway, back to the wine. They had a wide range of expensive and cheap including red and white and also merlot, chardonnay, shiraz, rioja, claret, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. Oh and they tossed in some bubbly as well.

They then managed to get 578 members of the public to join in and asked them to try and identify which was expensive and which was cheap. I’m betting that they had no problem finding volunteers. When faced with the question, “Excuse me sir, can we possibly persuade you to come and have some free wine?”, would you say “No Thanks”.

So what did they find out? Well, if there was no difference then you would expect them to only get it right 50% of the time by just guessing, and that’s exactly what happened.

Professor Richard Wiseman is quoted as saying

“These are remarkable results. People were unable to tell expensive from inexpensive wines, and so in these times of financial hardship the message is clear – the inexpensive wines we tested tasted the same as their expensive counterparts.”

The BBC has written this all up here.

Personally I think this was a really smart move. If you work for a university and have an expense budget for the trip to the science fair, then this is a really great way of getting a few drinks included as a business expense for tax purposes.

OK, I did also promise a few links relating to Richard, so to start, here is a link to his website. Check it out, its full of lots of fascinating stuff. And as for his books, he has lots, here is his latest …

And no, I don’t get $$ for pushing the book, I just happen to think his latest is a great addition for any skeptic bookshelf.

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