Nov 21, 2022·edited Nov 21, 2022

This magazine sounds great. Subscribed.

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Looks great.

One thing I will say: it seemed to me like Works in Progress already was a sort of unofficial rationalist magazine and there might be something to the idea that having a bunch of them is somewhat counterproductive.

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Can we please get an article about the kabbalistic significance of these snacks?

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I've read that the bottom of the wine hierarchy is now much better than it was a half century or so ago, due to advances in technique and presumably competition. Multiple authors saying "there really isn't any true 'plonk' anymore" compared to what they encountered in the 1960s or before. (Which is the opposite of how most comparisons between youth and the present tend to go.)

I wonder if that compresses the quality range relative to when the bonfides of premier crus et al. established their cachet. Even if there's a detectable difference, it may not be as great as it once was.

(In principle, the same process could make recent top end wines even better than their predecessors, but I haven't seen it suggested that that has happened.)

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What dye did you use to get the coloring right? I may have to try that at my next gathering, seems like a fun gag

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Just a fun note about scents that people don't want to admit exist (smells like cat urine from your article).

One of my friends likes the smell of whiteout. We (her friends) were understandably concerned, so I suggested that we contact some perfume companies to see if they had anything that smelled like it (for those of you not familiar with whiteout, think paint).

After laughing, the couple of companies I called denied having such a line of products. So we went to a mall to try in person. The first place we struck out at, but then we found a remarkable honest vendor who was indeed able to find a match for whiteout. My friend did buy it

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Ok. So, Scott, how does your investigation of "wine discernment"* inform your consideration of jhanas?

* I really did not like the title of the piece. Shouldn't it have been "Is wine discernment fake?"?

What maybe might also be considered in such investigations is the problem of "false precision". In this substack, I find that almost always when someone brings up IQ as a measure for something there is an undercurrent that 105 is somehow really different than 95. Or when ranking is involved in anything. To me these are versions of failure to understand variation. See W E Deming.

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Is this a magazine that will take submissions and then publish them based on quality? (Comparisons to rating wines left unstated.) I don't see a way to submit things, contact the editors, or provide feedback in any way.

I did enjoy the articles I've read, but it also seems like the authors are a collection of friends. Seems fine for a first article (who else is going to publish to your nascent magazine?) but is that intended to be the future mode as well?

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What kept the French fighting for 58 days at Dien Bien Phu when they should have long before surrendered? Vinogel, "a dehydrated block of wine that could be rehydrated with water. Nicknamed “Tiger Blood” by troops, it was often eaten as a solid block, no doubt to maximize the concentration of alcohol."

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This is very good indeed. Congratulations.

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I work in the data side of the wine business. Just a couple of comments on what is a really good article.

The actual difference between red and white wine can be far less than a someone not ITB will naively guess. Color is not a reliable indicator of many qualities. There are incredibly light (in body) red wines and white wines made like red (more contact with grape skins) that fell like reds. In short, the variance within a class can be larger than between classes. And since wine is typically a mostly natural agricultural product with a lot of human choices, the variance between the same wine across vintages is often larger than across types. To account for this, nearly every one of the studies you mention you the most processed, industrial product wines available. The wines are also picked to be as homogenous as possible so the deck is stacked.

Somm training and prowess relies on typical examples of the wine. I can pull out something that will trick nearly everyone but that is just being deliberately obscurantist versus a test of ability. They also train on the exact opposite of the wines mentioned above as used in these studies. The goal is also not merit, but identification. Many people - self included - love atypical wines more in areas where the typical is quite frankly banal or bad. This carries over where legal tasting panels used to assess whether a wine qualifies to meet their requirements are known to disqualify wines for being too good (ie atypical.)

Nobody in the biz - except maybe major commercial producers - use really great statistical methods in any form. When I looked at the methods of some of the 'it's all the same studies' don't use solid methods like the triangle test. (It has been a spell since I've look at these in details, tbf.) And nobody in the wine industry or hospitality industry does either. There is effectively zero statistical rigour including on related industry claims like wine preservation tools. And we won't even touch how badly the term 'double blind' get used among wine people.

Competitions. Gold medal is very misleading. Pretty much all wine competition assign "Gold" to the upper 25% or some cutoff of ALL entries. The goal isn't a serious evaluation - it is commerce. When I did judging, we were encouraged to round up when in doubt - the opposite I'd do professionally where if you are on the fence, it is the lower option. The variance in immense and most "Gold" are innocuous wines that don't offend anyone. The only way to analyze this would be to take Triple or Consensus Gold which meant ALL tasters were in agreement that this was a Gold level wine. That particular article was garbage, tbh.

Undervalued is the immense disconnect between our words and what we perceive in taste. We just aren't good at it without training or reference points and this applies to even wine critics and writers. And a lot is just personal history. My favorite example is "chocolate." If person A grew up on Hershey and person B grew up on 90% cacao, their experience and reference of chocolate are almost incommensurate.

Still a good article on a complicated subject.

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Thoughts: Whoah that's a lot of typefaces.

Sidebar thingy is neat. Section captions that appear on mouseover should be in a typeface either more or less similar to the body text. Hamburger and eponymous * could stand to fade in and out over about half a second.

IIRC a lot of flavours have some nasty smells in them below the threshold at which we can pick them out individually but high enough to give a more complex flavour. Aldi UK wine is generally not unreasonable considering its price range.

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I suspect that wine is much like art: it's pretty easy for everybody to agree that a particular piece is terrible. And that a particular piece shows significant skill. But trying to determine which of two different artworks is "better" is far harder. I'd note a significant difference between the experts and the general public here, as well. The public at-large seemed to like the works of Thomas Kinkade. The art world hated his stuff.

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I’m not surprised people don’t rank expensive wines better than cheaper:

1. Cheaper products of all kinds are usually sweeter. I taste tested bourbon and the cheapest was the sweetest. People like sugar, so that will break those rankings

2. Aficionados want to not be bored. They’ve tried the popular flavors and are now seeking out niche flavors. People who haven’t gotten bored yet will rank the popular flavor above the niche flavor.

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Asterisk sounds relevant to my interests, based on the articles above. Does it have an RSS feed or some other sort of syndication? I can use kill-the-newsletter if need be, but that's kind of a hack.

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One other comment on the Judgement of Paris :

The "experts" were less wrong than simply unaware of their own ignorance. The best of California was simply not available to them in any quantity to make a judgement, so they relied on the default position and what they had been exposed to only affirmed their position. Spurrier went to great effort to pick a tiny subset of great California wines, replicating in person for CA what the market opinion of decades had determined were the best in France.

While there were and still are levels of Gallic chauvinism, the more common reaction was for the French actively investigate wines from other places and then significantly invest in making wines there.

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'Maybe one of those things wine experts say is code for “smells like a goat,”'

FWIW, the polite-ish phrase is 'barnyard' and it's common, and not unpleasant, in reds made from the southern French grape mourvedre.

Aged riesling allegedly tastes of kerosine, but in a good way.

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This looks like an exciting project. If you could, please build an app. I don’t like reading in browsers anymore, an app is just so much better in that it’s optimized for reading, toggling, and saving articles for later.

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"There can be objectively bad pizza — burnt, cold, mushy — but there isn’t really any objective best pizza. Fancier and more complicated pizzas can be more expensive, not because they’re better, but because they’re more interesting. Maybe wine is the same way."

That's pretty much exactly what the local wine shop person in what was my neighborhood between the 13th and the 14th arrondissement used to say. Good wine for 5eur? It's a stretch but can be done - here's a favorite for doctoral defenses. Most wines she recommended were between 6 and 10 eur. (Of course part of this may have been natural adaptation to my pockets and those of my neighbors.) Above 10eur, she said, you are no longer paying for quality as such, you are paying for complexity.

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This reminds me of the fact that psychoanalysis was practiced for decades and people paid good money to go in weekly or daily to have their lives and dreams diced up in Freudian terms. Untold number of published academic papers analyzed movies and literature identifying Oedipal and Electra complex themes.

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Your essay about wine tickled a notion I have about the varieties of aesthetic experience. I used to teach college art courses. One of the courses I taught was 'Introduction to Studio,' which was basically a primer on what an artistic practice looks like, but I worked in a bit of art appreciation as a way to help students think about the experience of art. As part of the course, we'd go to the school gallery and look at whatever show was up. One student and I spent some time looking at a seascape photograph, and I walked the student through a chain of associations I had looking at the work—how the composition made me think of highways, then to the idea of the road trip, then to the great expansiveness of America, and how that road trip is something of a new world phenomenon and what might be extrapolated from that. I told the student how my father had never been west of Illinois, but he was going to drive his RV out west the next year, and how I hoped he wouldn't be disappointed or felt that he'd waited too late. I told him how Robert Persig's book shaped my father, and the ominous clouds piled up in the distance within the picture plane of that seascape photograph loomed over the sea like Phaedres over the narrator of that excellent book, and like the limitations of my father's disappointments had loomed over him. I told my student the picture made me sad my father.

I made the point to my student that of course the picture had absolutely nothing to say about my father, but that one of the best experiences of art are when we open ourselves to the associations art can spark. Nothing I said to my student about the picture was bullshit—that's the point; it was just playing free association until I found something meaningful to me, and it enhanced my experience of being there in that gallery, looking at that picture. It's not always that a picture gives you enough to work with or you can be bolloxed to make the effort to appreciate art in that way, but that when you do, you get something truly personal that has nothing to do with the artist's intent.

Sometimes you can taste a glass of wine and try to pull from it jamminess or dried fruit or pepperiness and the terróir of the hills of Napa Valley, and from there you go to your ex-boyfriend who put too much pepper on things, and you wonder what went wrong, and if you're happier now than you would have been if things had worked out. And sometimes, you take a sip and ignore it because you're just stalling until you can think of something to say.

*I understand that most people who talk about wine are not, in fact, doing all this—they are employing bullshit jargon to seem intelligent and discriminating. Nevertheless, there is a type of experience possible that is evocative and lingual and not wholly bullshit.

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Pepsi is sweeter than Coke. Pepsi does better in taste tests because taste tests use small servings. With normal serving sizes, the sweetness of Pepsi is cloying.

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I really liked Kelsey Piper's review of Will MacAskill's book - it identified something I could see around the edges in much of the discussion, but hadn't yet drawn out myself. (It also helps clarify that my reaction to longtermist thinking seems to be one that she shares.)

I was a bit less impressed by the ones about monkeypox and pandemic prevention, but I think they're trying to illustrate someone's thought processes, and not necessarily written in the best way to help clarify something for the reader.

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Maybe they were to polite to comment that your red wine was 'lacking in body/ depth'. I love a good fruity/ deep red wine. Kendal Jackson pinot noir never displeases me... unless it's gone sour.

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>Why Isn’t The Whole World Rich? Professor Dietrich Vollrath’s introduction to growth economics. What caused the South Korean miracle, and why can’t other countries copy it?

Sorry, but this article is absolutely horrendous. Just inexcusably bad. It doesn't even pretend to consider heritable factors, even just to dismiss them. Not a single mention of intelligence, IQ, heredity, genetics, or biological variation of any kind. Isn't it bizarre that high intelligence populations /just happen/ to build good institutions?

Saying that South Korea proves that dirt poor countries can become rich quickly is at best extremely misleading, because South Korea did not enjoy the benefits that poor countries have today in the form of highly developed global trade networks, the internet and availability of knoweldge etc. Nigeria has all the non-intelligence advantages in the world over 1960 South Korea. If South Korea of 1960 sprung into existence today it would industrialize insanely fast.

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More so than if expert wine tasters are fake or not, it is if their ideas and preference are applicable to the common person. They are more like connoisseurs in a genetic+social sub-group who are both able to detect, care about, and are interested in expensive wines and the very subtle differences between them.

One also cannot discount the propensity for people to try to 'in group' themselves by adopting the habits, concerns, and interests of the aristocracy. A common theme is the pursuit and interest in rare and expensive items to signify their status. Be it playing golf, going skiing, expensive watches-wine-real estate-handbags-clothes etc. there are many people looking to fit in socially and various 'real' areas of highly specialised 'expertise' develop, often with some element of truth in them with fancy/needless for time telling internal engineering workings of watches and useless wealth signalling gold plating with embedded diamonds.

But for the 95-99% of people who cannot reliably detect faint traces of chemicals and do not want to copycat and fake their own way into/maintain their place in 'high class' social circles by pretending or genuinely coming to care about wine or handbags or watches or cigars, then this information of wine tasting has no applicability. It truly is some dumb rich people thing like caviar, cigars, cheeses, cured pork, and wine.

In terms of expertise and tasting notes etc. being fake...if 92% of people who really try to pass the official wine tasters organisation fail...then by and large one can accurately expect almost every expert they meet to be fake/making it up/not very accurate/deluding themselves. Do those 92% failures who have spent 10+ years 'training their palette' go away and stop telling other people about which wines are better in their social lives? Do they never work in jobs in the restaurant or wine industry to make choices about suppliers or in producing or mixing wine? Of course they do!

So by and large the vast majority of expertise across the entire wine industry is demonstrably fake.

I'd say unless you are in that tiny genetic subset with the nose for it and the desire to 'act rich' or are just a motivated alcoholic or somehow come to appreciate these subtle games to stimulate your genetically gifted nose....then 100% of everything even the real experts say is 100% inapplicable to you and not worth the money for the experience of drinking it. And almost all wine expertise you will come across as a non-multi-multi millionaire in normal/regular fancy restaurants and wine sellers is fake price gouging nonsense.

The average person in the average context leading their normal lives has no need and cannot benefit from drinking wines which cost more, even if it does reliably fit into approved expert opinions. This is because you literally cannot taste or smell it. Even more so anyone would be much better off never drinking any alcohol of any kind, it is a harmful chemical with a few truly fake studies pretending a glass a day is somehow beneficial...it isn't and there are healthier ways to reduce stress than addiction and chemical dependencies. The evidence base for the good of wine is thin at best and industry funded.

The entire thing with wine is just like if a few rich people discovered a small subset of people who are like Beagles or Bears with a superior ability to detect ultra subtle differences most people cannot detect. Then they set up a huge game on top of an existing industry of wine making - and they set their hounds loose to identify rare wine tastes which they can then talk about while they put on airs at their fancy private aristocratic parties and exclusive restaurants. It is just a dumb rich people game with collectors and rarity and tulip bulbs for things almost none of the wealthy patrons can even taste.

Sounds pretty fake to me, even if there are a tiny core group of highly trained beagle people sniffing what are normally undetectable differences and include tastes and smells most people wouldn't appreciate even if they could smell them! Yes more cat piss and oak berry combinations...you can tell these are popular flavours for commoners due to all the oak-berry-nut flavoured non-alcoholic drinks on the market! Next to all the soda and fruit cordials all these 'notes' these experts are seeking out due to the difficulty in producing them and paying for them are...gross!

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One of my all time favorite television series was the "Northern Exposure" about the the eccentric residents of a fictional small town in Alaska featuring the fish out of water adventures of a New York City native physician who is assigned to work in the town as repayment for his medical school loans. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Exposure

One of my favorite episodes was No. 59: "The Big Feast" originally braodcast on March 22, 1993 • "To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Minnifield Communications, Maurice prepares one of his famously lavish parties, sparing no expense. ... Shelly accidentally breaks a very expensive bottle of Maurice's wine, a 1929 Château Latour, but Eve comes to the rescue. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Northern_Exposure_episodes

Eve's rescue involves taking a bottle of ordinary wine, gluing on the original lable and doctoring it with things like peat moss. The bottle is drunk and no one is the wiser.

A notorious case of wine fraud was Rudy Kurniawan He was found to be offering more magnums of the limited edition 1947 Château Lafleur than had been produced, and his Clos St. Denis Grand Cru was labelled with a fictitious vintage. Sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in 2013 in the United States, he was released in November 2020 and deported to Indonesia. Victims of Kurniawan's fraud include Bill Koch [yes one of those Kochs], who sued Kurniawan in 2009 alleging he sold fake bottles at auction and in private sales ... Koch and Kurniawan settled out of court in July 2014 for $3 million in damages, and Kurniawan should be completely debriefed regarding his knowledge of counterfeiting in the wine industry. Koch claimed to have spent $35 million tracking down the evidence to pursue his case. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudy_Kurniawan

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A couple comments on "Is Wine Fake?"

A couple of missed points.

I've been making wines for 20+ years ...and first of all, taste is subjective. Experts really are experts. Anyone who can discern the difference between vintages, regions and varietals - damn!

If you can't tell the diff ... who cares? Buy the cheaper wine.

Some people have palates with a greater threshold for flavor.

Or perhaps, the taster offset the pH in his/her mouth by eating a tangerine or a piece of chocolate just before sipping. That can alone shift perception.

Also wine is a living thing in the bottle and its chemistry is constantly changing.

Finally, wine is very expensive to make. Hand harvesting, processing equipment, barrels ($800-$1,000 each), commissions and shipping. It's quite possible that a $100 wine actually cost $90 to make.

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Regarding food coloring, as an alternative you can buy black tasting glasses from Riedel (and perhaps others) to avoid such misdirection or vulgar hints.

I'd say identifying vintages seems hardest, if nothing else because it requires a lot of tasting and it can simply be hard to assemble a suitable vertical. (Also provides a devious way to defraud most drinkers.)

Finally, I should also mention that I unscientifically appreciate wine differently depending on the glass from which it is drunk. (Bombshell?)

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I find the end of "Making Sense Of Moral Change" *weird*.

In the middle Christopher Leslie Brown argues a lot about the "false dichotomy between sincere activism and self-interested activism".

But then in the end he seems to go *against* this, rejecting antislavery being "part of the natural process of modernization"..?

But wasn't the Great British Empire "exporting antislavery" also partially self-serving ??

Certainly seems to be to me, after all, industrialization only kicked into high gear because of a set of extremely specific circumstances found in Great Britain at the time, which also gave them a large advance on the competition !


So the fact that Great Britain didn't *need* human "energy slaves" any more, would explain quite a lot why it was very politically expedient to bully anyone else that was benefiting from it !

(It's a bit more subtle than that, since it benefited quite a lot from slavery for specifically cotton-picking, but here too the article adds a piece that was missing from my puzzle : it was much more politically complicated for them to bully the growing USA than the various Ottoman-backed Barbary corsairs (et al.) that were already in decline but especially infamous for enslaving Europeans !)

(Unless of course his point was that the industrial revolution was not very likely, but it didn't read to me like that...)

Also, the bit about the USA "exporting democracy" reminded me of a commonly heard criticism about how they're mostly exporting neoliberalism (read : free market trade), which benefits them now that they're top dog, while they were gladly using protectionism while the Great Britain was the top dog. (And of course the Middle Eastern oil criticisms.)

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Enjoyed the wine article a lot. Looks like a great magazine.

One thing you didn’t touch on that I think plays into this as well: *tasting* wine is not the same thing as *drinking* wine. Small samples with a regimented tasting method isn’t at all analogous to pouring a tall glass you quaff with snacks around the pool. I do really wonder how much that plays into it. (I’ve heard this as an explanation for the Pepsi taste test thing - Pepsi has a sweeter flavor that’s better in a little sip, but Coke tastes better by the glass).

And there is also mood - you mention different pizza types. I also enjoy Detroit style, it’s probably my “favorite” if I had to pick one, I have ready access to a decent chain that sells it… but it’s probably only about 20% of the pizza I get? Sometimes I just want some other kind of pizza. I enjoy big stout beers, but drink light IPAs more often because they are more refreshing. Etc.

So maybe wine tasting isn’t repeatable because taste just isn’t a repeatable science?

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In "Making Sense Of Moral Change", the author claims that the abolition of slavery in England would not have happened when it did if not for the politicization of slavery, caused by the American Revolution.

This runs counter to arguments I've heard on ACX and similar spaces which is that if your goal is to improve policy, the last thing you should do is politicize an issue. Robin Hanson's idea of "pulling the rope sideways" is related to this.

What do people think about this difference? Is one strategy generally better than the other? Are there particular kinds of problems where politicization is a better way to shift policy, and others where it is worse?

Perhaps if you desire to make a significant policy shift, like abolishing slavery, that has many powerful interests against it, then it's necessary to make the issue political or else it's impossible to overcome the resistance against making the change. But if you have some smaller scale policy shift that doesn't have obvious detractors, then keeping the topic apolitical stops any resistance from forming.

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Minor comment here, since that site doesn't seem to have comments:

> People spend thousands of dollars for fancy wine that they enjoy no more than $10 plonk from the corner store.

This is missing the point. People don't buy wine blinded; they're buying a whole experience that includes 1. knowing what wine you are buying, 2. potentially, others knowing what wine you are buying. Buying an expensive fancy wine is rewarding in various ways that are not directly related to the taste of the wine, and those ways aren't "fake" or "insane".

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I don't agree with Scott's theory of the Pepsi challenge. My perception of the difference between Coke and Pepsi is that Coke is a bit more astringent, which cuts its sweetness some. Pepsi won taste tests because it is sweeter and most people when offered a choice will prefer sweeter foods and drinks.

But, over the long haul, sweetness without balance is cloying. That is why many people prefer Coke.

Coca Cola conducted an experiment when they reformulated the beverage in the late 1970s and marketed it as the New Coke. It was a disaster,at least in the short haul. I heard a very good podcast series about the episode. I think this is it:: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOBn-rdJvxA

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Did you spot that the word “the” is in this sentence twice?

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loved the wine article. That "experts can't tell red from white!" study has plagued me for years and I take its invocation to be a reliable sign that I should talk to someone else at the party.

I’m a neophyte perfumer. It’s remarkable how quickly one’s discernment can update itself with minimal training / experience. Certain aromachemicals are used everywhere in perfumery but are never perceived as a discrete scent until you’ve smelled them on their own — iso e super, hedione, many more. Smell these in isolation enough times and you’ll start to recognize them from yards away, and you may also begin to update your framework for what makes a fragrance compelling or beautiful or “good.”

Tangentially: hexanoic acid is used quite a bit in perfumery, contributing in tiny quantities to accords that register as "fruity". Looks like there are a few studies about its appearance in wine as well; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12236692

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loved this article! where my josh heads at 👀

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Taiwanese chips? You have two bags of mainland Chinese chips flanking one bag of Taiwanese (or at least, not mainland) chips. Did you mean for all the chips to be Taiwanese?

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An interesting contrast to wine is Scotch. There the differences can be in your face. My favorite single malts are Talisker and Laphroaig. They both have what I would call a phenolic character with notes of mucked out barn and iodine. Either you like it or you don't. I raised my son well, and he likes them. My daughter in law, OTOH, does not like them. She is OK with Chivas Regal which is at the opposite end of the taste spectrum. My preferred blended scotch is Johnnie Walker Black, which uses Talisker as part of its base.

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To what extent does this contradict or not contradict Scott's claim that we should trust self-reported internal experiences?

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TIL I have a habit of double-clicking text as I read it, and Asterisk Magazine isn't just a name.

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In his famous early "70's "Le goût du vin" ("The taste of wine") , the late great Émile Peynaud wrote ( I condense the whole book a bit...): "It wouldn't be a surprise if a few decades of work by geneticists at UC Davis could equal or best centuries of monks toil."

Far from being a surprise, everybody in the world of wine knew how fast the other producers were catching up. There were no internet but wintners, sommeliers, agronomists and other consultants travelled while investors knew how much money could be made by expanding production to quench the thirst of the fast-growing middle-classes with their fancy aspirations.

I am old enough to have seen and tasted the transition from what passed as wine in Canada in the '60'-70's to what it became twenty years later. The lovely days of spanish, portuguese and yougoslav plonk Canada got in exchange for Bombardier waterbomber aircrafts...

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I notice I’m confused about one of the assertions in the pandemic prevention article:

“ The reason why we haven’t seen any credible attempts with pandemic-capable viruses is we haven’t had any pandemic-capable viruses to use. We still don’t know of any.”

What about smallpox? MERS-CoV? Nipah? Ebola? Deadlier influenza strains? Couldn’t these be bad, ackshually, on a global scale if dispersed in airports?

I’m curious what criteria the author might have been using to rule out the deadly and contagious viruses we already know about.

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Regarding your section on blind testing expensive vs. cheap wines, my dad's favorite party game is what he calls Cheap Date; it is, simply, a blind taste test of six wines of varying price. Everybody ranks them, and then you get to laugh about who has expensive/cheap taste. Not much rigor, but it is fun.

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RE the notion that experts can't tell the difference between cheap and expensive wines, could it just be that the wine *producers* are the ones at fault here? They're the ones who decide which of their barrels goes in the expensive bottle and which goes in the cheap one. If that assignment is made randomly w/r/t to objective wine quality, then wine experts aren't going to be able to pick expensive wines based on quality. Have the studies ruled out this kind of effect? I mean I'd expect wineries to use tasting experts to figure out how much they should be charging for their wine, but maybe they don't?

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I got a bit of wine training for a job at a restaurant known for its wine selection and knowledge (10 hour somm class, on the job training including monthly tastings and discussions, got to talk to a number of Italian producers we'd bring in for special dinners, etc.) Some scattered thoughts on your article:

1. The stuff in the Somm doc is about learning a huge number of wines as they are typically expressed. It would probably be fairly easy to find deliberately tricky and unusual wines that they would get wrong. For the areas they really focus on (e.g. France) thay can get remarkably granular, like being able to know which particular bank of the Rhone the grapes were grown on. This seems like a magic trick or scam, but even with my relatively small amount of training, I was able to blindly pick out characteristics that distinguish Barberas produced in Alba vs. Asti -- two towns about 20 miles from each other. I can't believe it's all bullshit because I've been able to do that kind of thing.

2. I've also experienced the predictive coding effect. When I was taking that course, sometimes the instructor would pick out a taste characteristic that I hadn't gotten, but after he mentioned it I could taste it. On one hand that's clearly a psychological effect, on the other hand it's kind of fun if you don't take it too seriously, like when you exit the movie theater and discover that your friend saw the film from a completely different angle than you, but now that they mention it, you can sort of see where they identified that theme....

3. The assumption people have that enjoyment of wine ought to be perfectly correlated with price is odd to me. From my experience if you pay at least $10 for a bottle it's almost certainly going to be drinkable and might be delicious. Only the bottom shelf stuff is a gamble/rank. That wasn't necessarily true 50 years ago, I've been told, and the dialog around wine maybe hasn't caught up. But with most things, you pay for quality to a certain point, after which you pay for novelty and name recognition. Like, most people are going to recognize that you're probably going to get a more complex cheese at $20/lb vs. $5/lb. But if you're paying $50/lb it's going to be something weird and/or historically famous and/or made through an extremely laborious process. I'd expect the same general pattern with cured meats or coffee or sneakers or beer. So why do we test wine on a purely price vs. enjoyment scale entirely above the threshold where wine is usually at least alright?

4. Following from the above, what's wrong with catering to the uber-nerds looking for new or pristine experiences in whatever thing they're nerdy about? A couple of days ago I watched a video of a guy going over the minute differences between different types of expensive coffee grinders. He's looking for the best possible grind according to a number of criteria, and he has fun seeking that out. I've got nothing against that, it's just not my area of nerdery. I'll take the adequate grinder that costs 1/10th the price. I don't that means the expensive grinders are a scam, just that some people are willing to pay 10x more for a 10% increase in grind consistency because they're nerds.

5. I completely ignore all wine awards. Every wine producer I've talked to admitted that it's a bunch of nonsense and a dumb game they have to play to stay in business. I got the strong impression that there's a bunch of unscrupulous stuff going on with some of the awards too.

6. I've definitely smelled goat in a wine, though I think my exact descriptor was "a wet dog in a barn". Usually that's an indication of something gone wrong, but with this particular wine it was intentional. It tasted strongly of tobacco, btw, and it was delicious.

7. My favorite descriptor in the Somm doc was "freshly opened can of tennis balls", which I did actually smell in a wine once!

Anyways, I enjoyed the article and think it's largely correct, from my limited experiences in the field.

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I think there is something kinda missed from "Is Wine Fake" and the mention of how people generally like cheap wine - some sorts of alcoholic drinks are more expensive than others.

Like, for instance, I like port, don't mind red wine, and hate white wine. And port costs more than red wine which costs more than white wine. So there is a real expense-vs.-quality tradeoff if I want to buy alcohol, though there are also things that I would simply be making a mistake to buy (e.g. champagne, which I hate because it's white but which costs more than red wine).

I am super-unconvinced by "The Illogic of Nuclear Escalation". Taking out missiles on the ground is actually pretty relevant in terms of saving Western lives, and due to modern US warheads being typically sub-megaton actually burning a major city takes a lot of them. And there is the question of how easy it is to deter an enemy, and the question of "well, if this opponent can't be deterred, don't we still need the ability to actually destroy them in order to prevent the proverbial Nazis Win scenario?".

Forcing the PRC to suffer state failure, for instance, would probably take several hundred warheads, not including missiles shot down by their ABM or used against the PLA's own nuclear stockpile. If you want to still be able to do that in the event of a PLA surprise attack that destroys some of the US nukes on the ground, well, you're going to need a stockpile at least as big as what the USA has, potentially more.

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I'd argue you are kinda answering the wrong question in "is wine fake". I think what most people want to know is if there is really any sense in which the expert loved wind is better of is it just a different taste?

Ok, the wine experts like it more but it's not at all clear they haven't simply associated those tastes with sophistication and even if they naturally prefer those tastes it in no way implies that they are actually any better. I mean is an award for best condiment that only hires ppl who like mustard more than ketchup fake? I think there is a strong sense in which it is.

Now I'm sure some ppl will insist that few ppl are really claiming that. But that's a motte-bailey tactic with wine just as it is with books. Sure, when challenged directly on it quite a few ppl who study or even teach literature will try and suggest they are just exposing ppl to certain kinds of writing just as wine experts will often say that you should drink what you like.

Yet that attitude doesn't reflect the message they send whenever they aren't being directly challenged. You aren't going to find yourself reading Harry Potter in English class nor will someone whose taste in wine resembles mine (I want my wine to taste like my soft drinks) will get taken seriously in wine evaluation no matter how expertly they can distingush the tastes.

So yah it's fake, or perhaps the better word is corrupt, because it's not an honest attempt to communicate to the public what they might like. And I admit it's a matter of degree but I think it's clear that many wine experts attempt to suggest that one has a better, richer and more sexy experience if your tastes match theirs with only social pressure not evidence behind it.

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any chance this magazine will be printed on paper?

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Most European wines are named solely by the regional appellation and containing a blend of multiple grape varieties characteristic to the region. A bottle of "Bordeaux" means it's a full-bodied red wine, typically a Merlot/Cabernet blend, from southwestern France. In contrast, "New World" wines are usually single varieties and you'll see both the region and the grape prominently on the bottle. "Napa Valley" means it's from that part of California but it can be any kind of wine - red, white, or cloying pink Zinfandel. I wonder to what extent the ability to tell regions apart is really the ability to tell their characteristic grape varieties apart.

I visited France a few months ago and noted that there were varietal French wines for sale at markets there, generally priced in the low to mid-range and often store brands. The traditional regional blends made up most of the higher-end wines. Also, imported wine, even from nearby Spain and Italy, was only available at the largest supermarkets or from specialty wine importers. And the EU is supposed to be a common market with free flow of goods...

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I miss the comments, for the articles in asterisk. I realize it's a "next level" kind of difficulty, if not technical then definitely from a moderation point of view, but still - if properly jumpstarted it could become quite the conversation hub.

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Nov 22, 2022·edited Nov 22, 2022

The monkeypox prediction was pretty much on spot: "I predict the outbreak will have mostly subsided by the middle of November". (Prediction from mid-September.) The cumulative case number for the US of 30,000 will also be on spot.

In Europe, it has almost been eradicated. Several countries had 50-200 daily cases at peak times. Now it's two orders of magnitude less: ~5 daily cases for all of Europe combined, half of them in Spain.

The US are lagging behind. (The decline started later). They have "only" lost one order of magnitude, going from 500 daily cases to 50.

Otherwise, the rest of the Americas are the biggest concern. Mexico, Colombia and Brazil are each at ~30 daily cases and are going down much more slowly. These three countries plus the US cover more than 2/3 of all reported cases worldwide, currently ~200 daily. At peak times it was ~1000 daily cases globally.

I have talked to health workers and read some interviews of them (for example of some Swiss centers for STIs, and the ones responsible for rolling out the vaccinations.) They assign the successes to the reaction and awareness of the MSM community (men who have sex with men). Knowledge and awareness is extremely high in this community, and a lot of people are very sensitized to any symptoms, and take actions if they discover anything. I must say that as a member of this community, I am pretty proud of the common reaction.

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>Featuring eyeless, beakless, featherless, near-brainless chickens that “[resemble] something between an animal and a fruit”.

I can't remember where I first heard it, but was once related an anecdote supposedly from an exec of Tyson (Purdue? Foster Farms?), that chicken is just "a vegetable on legs". Prescient!

Real Chicken(tm) honestly just kinda sucks though. I'm pretty happy the plant-based varieties are so good already, at least in nugget form. Any meat that's only decently-palatable when deep-fried or whatever is just asking to be eaten for lunch by plant alternatives. (Also looking at you, turkey.)

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All my friends in the NorCal wine industry classified wine into two categories: swillable or unswillable.

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About your wine:

I'm not that into wine, but into Whisky! And it is similar with _very_expensive bottles and tastings and stuff.

And I don't know if it is just in my "Whisky-circle" or normal for Whisky drinkers, but not many care about the price of a bottle. A 40EUR bottle can be enjoyed as well as a 400EUR one. The "rule" is: If you like it, you like it!

Which brings us to taste: Taste is very subjective. Mabye you can learn more in those 10 sommelier years and I'm just a layman. But what I taste doesn't mean others taste the same. Some experts also taste things, that I don't even think of!

For example, I was at a tasting and a dram for me was very sweet and "suggery" and I called it a "bonbon taste". My "neighbour" at the bar was/is more involved (owning a Whisky shop etc.) and a better taster than me. And he tasted a "Leckmuschel". I can't translate that exactly :P But it is a _very_ special kind of "bonbon" that at least me didn't ...eat!?licked? ... since I was a kid! Wouldn't have thought about that in the slightest; but it was the "same direction"

Also about this taste: Some wine-lovers will probably come over and kill me now, but I think, that Whisky has a much wider range of flavors than wine! And because of that many people prefer different "styles". And maybe more expensive bottles in their preference will be more enjoyed ... but others will think not much about it!

I admit for myself, that the best Whisky I tasted yet was the most expensive one too. But I have fun with "cheap" ones too. But I wouldn't be able to taste the money-difference. If you are good you can taste if a Whisky is older (meaning: it was in the barrel for a long time) or not. But in current times even "young" Whiskys can be expensive. So it isn't easy to differenciate.

While there is no "red or white" for Whisky, there is a big thing that seperates whiskys: Single Malt (most of the time "one barrel") and Blended (different barrels are "mixed" together). Blended are often regarded as "inferior". But in blind tastings blended Whiskys are often rated quite high; because you can't really taste the difference!

So, what do we make from all that?

Enjoy the drink!

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Have you actually bought and tasted a bunch of different wines for this article? If not, then I think it's kinda ridiculous that you write an article about whether X it real just by going and looking at existing research and stuff without actually buying X and trying it when it's relatively cheap and easy to buy.

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Are there people who can notice subtle differences in the tastes of, say, coffees or cheeses or between the aromas of perfumes who also believe wine is fake?

Personally, I can't tell cheap wine from expensive, but then I'm not very sophisticated at tasting and smelling anything else either. Other people are clearly much more discerning than I am about discerning differences in foods, so I assume that my lack of ability to notice much about wines is due to my personal deficiencies rather than to wine being fake. If somebody like food critic Corby Kummer of "The Atlantic," who has remarkable ability to notice differences in the taste of foods, said that wine is fake, I'd take him seriously.

But I don't take seriously my own perceptions when it comes to wine. So I just drink boxed wine myself, but I don't tell other people to be like me.

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Nov 22, 2022·edited Nov 22, 2022

I loved the article, but this sentence made me cringe. "Although ordinary people do not prefer more expensive to less expensive wine, some experts do, at least if we are willing to bend the statistical significance rules a little."

You probably know this already, but over the last 5-10 years, there's been growing concern over the focus on "statistical significance." Any "rules" (like p < 0.05 means an effect is "real") are arbitrary conventions and in general, what we really care about is the effect size and the uncertainty around that effect size. A tiny p value could mean either a huge effect that could be detected with a small number of subjects, or it could mean a very small effect that requires huge populations of subjects to accurately estimate the small effect size. For instance, if experts can distinguish expensive from cheap wine with 55% accuracy vs 50% accuracy for laymen, this difference would very likely be classified as statistically significant with p < 0.05, if one ran a study comparing 10,000 experts to 10,000 laymen, but not with a study of 100 experts vs 100 laymen.

Since your writing and analyses are so thorough, I expect you already know this. But seeing the words "bend the statistical significance rules" makes me cringe, so I figured I'd comment. Here's a longer article on p-values, in case it's helpful.


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Nov 22, 2022·edited Nov 22, 2022

Blinded by the dye.

Dressed up like a Douce:

Another Reisling in the night.

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Wine experts remind me GeoGuessr experts.


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I have thoughts on the Kaplan essay. I think he makes the common mistake of overrating the destructiveness of nuclear weapons, and underestimating the resilience of an enemy country. I'd prefer the margin of safety that comes from having 1,500 warheads instead of going down to only a few hundred. Beyond that, I very much agree that there's not a good case for the new ICBM. The big reason I can think of to keep the ICBM force around is to soak up warheads that might otherwise be going for our cities. And possibly as a hedge against problems with Trident, which could serve as a pretty good replacement if we loaded it with one warhead. But that seems unconvincing.

I do think he's wrong about the bombers. First, they're quite useful for things other than nuclear war, and our existing bomber force is getting old and hard to maintain. The B-2 has always been crazy expensive, and the B-21 promises to be a lot better, while also letting us cut the B-1 and maybe eventually the B-52. And note that the B-1 is not authorized to carry nuclear weapons, and hasn't been for decades. I am not impressed by his suggestion that it is. (And this ignores the need for a new nuclear cruise missile for the bombers, which is in work.) I also would say that we need a new SSBN now, rather than at some point in the future. The Ohios are getting very old, and hard to maintain. (Which, to be clear, is absolutely a thing, and a good reason to stop just refurbishing Minuteman.)

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Most importantly, we learned that Scott's pizza preferences are correct. Detroit>NYC>Chicago.

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The logo for the magazine looks like Kurt Vonnegut's drawing of an asshole in Breakfast of Champions.

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This looks like a great magazine. But if one of the points of it is to give the EA movement more academic credibility (I don't know if it is) it doesn't seem very good at it.

A book review. One article that reads like a blog post, Scott even uses Wikipedia as a source. I really like the stuff I've read so far. But it doesn't come across very serious, just like substack but with a nicer design. And maybe higher quality.

All that being said I hope someone makes a podcast for the Asterisk magazine. That would be great.

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Typo: on "Do wines ever have 6-carbon carboxylic acids, or 10-carbon alkanes — i.e., goats, armpits or jet fuel?", two chemicals are mapped to three sources as if one-to-one.

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To what degree do you expect the difference between usual wine preferences versus more detailed wine preferences to be explainable by the existence of supertasters?

Around a quarter to a third of people are considered supertasters, meaning we have an increased number of papillae on our tongues.

I subjectively feel like I can very clearly taste the difference among various wines, though I don't have the language to describe that difference.

Is it possible that the people who were able to pass the exams were supertasters while the others who failed in the studies weren't?

It would mean reviews from wine critics aren't generalizable to 75% of the population, which sounds about right.

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Scott, what a great piece. I've long wanted to synthesize all these wine studies, but my goals were less ambitious than what you crafted in Asterisk. Bravo.

Thanks for diving into the science, and I'm so happy to share your work in an upcoming newsletter.

Somm is the documentary that got me into wine. And if you need a follow up wine doc on actual fake wine, I suggest Sour Grapes.

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I am impressed with this magazine, both by the quality of the content and the presentation. I love the footnotes being in the right margin. What a simple and significant improvement to the ease of reading!

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Nov 22, 2022·edited Nov 22, 2022

Well, pizza, cheeseburgers and wine are all food groups, but wine has always already had an elitist/ high culture aspect to it that doesn't work for cheeseburgers and rarely goes well with pizza, unless you are from New Haven, CT.

The vocabulary only clues us in to the fact that we are dealing with a material that matters greatly to some segment of the culture and while that vocabulary can act as a gatekeeper, it is also helpful for understanding the material and understanding leads to greater appreciation--and more gatekeepers!

I don't know about $1000 bottles of wine tasting the same as an $80 bottle, but I can understand why two wines of similar taste might deviate greatly in price and land value is one such element to consider.

I tasted a $245 bottle from Ridge's Santa Clarita vineyard outside of Cupertino yesterday and while it was nice, it wasn't something that I would buy but I'm sure that Ridge has no problems selling it because Ridge signifies a value within the wine community. And while it does make me wonder who is buying $1000 bottles of wine and why, I can't say that I would ever feel the pressure to buy one; however, if I had the cash and no plans for it I would buy a bottle of $1000+ Screaming Eagle just to try it because it has a reputation for the kinds of value that the wine community embraces.

I also have no problems with gatekeepers--even irony is a gatekeeper of sorts as is the education that you mention. I do however have a problem with closed doors, especially in education where there is all of this talk of "equity." But that's another story.

People getting upset about wine they will never buy or drink strikes me as a bit on the side of Nietzschean "ressentiment." I'm not big on Bordeaux, so I will have to take your word for the Margaux!

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Scott, I thoroughly enjoyed your wine-tasting article in Asterisk.

I must admit I likely am accurately described by humourist Dave Barry, who said something like "the average American, blind-folded, would have trouble distinguishing between a fine French wine and a melted popsicle". (Oh phew, I'm Canadian, so it's OK.)

I was reminded of this fine excerpt from Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon Days. Young John Tollefson has written his own 95 Theses, a rant against his repressive Lutheran upbringing. Number 79:

"I revolted by becoming a sensitive person, which I am not. I hate folk music. I don't care for most of the sensitive people I feel obligated to hang out with. Most of them play guitars and write songs about their feelings. I have to pack up my Percy Faith records when they come and put the box in the bedroom closet and pile winter coats on it, and despite the mothballs I'm afraid they'll take one sniff and say, "You like light classical, don't you?"

I pour a round of Lowenbrau, being careful not to pour along the side but straight down so the beer can express itself, and they say, "Did you ever try Dockendorf?" It's made by the Dockendorf family from hand-pumped water in their ancient original family brewery in an unspoiled Pennsylvania village where the barley is hauled in by Amish families who use wagons with oak beds. Those oak beds give Dockendorf its famous flavor.

These beer bores, plus the renovators of Victorian houses, the singer-songwriters, the runners, the connoisseurs of northern Bengali cuisine, the collectors of everything Louis Armstrong recorded between August 1925 and June 1928, his seminal period - they are driving me inexorably toward life as a fat man in a bungalow swooning over sweet-and-sour pork.

You drove me toward them!"

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There's a point in the Guardian article about wine tasting that alert me:

>The only difference was that one had been coloured red with a flavourless dye.

I have never tasted food dye (and never used any I can recall), but what is "flavourless"? I can recall plenty of things with a very faint taste, but a taste nonetheless, but nothing to be flavourless. And even assuming a food dye in itself can be flavourless, is it not possible that it can alter the taste of what it's added to? I think Scott mention somewhere having used half, or over half of a bottle of food coloring agent for his wine. I don't know how much that is, but that may be a non-nogligeable amount of diluting the wine, thus altering the taste.

If it sounds like unfalsifiable claims, it's because it is (on second thoughts, I should have read that post on internal state instead of skimming over it), but that's a lot of hypothesis that could make the experiments meaningless.

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Thanks for the heads up, this mag looks like a nice project. Seconded or thirded: can you please ask them to add RSS? That's the classic hassle-free way to keep in touch with a web publication.

About the wine thing, not much to say, I hardly ever drink it. But I was surprised the article didn't focus more about the distinction between being able to taste differences between wines, and ranking them. These are two completely different things! These are complex organic juices with plenty of variation in chemicals, and a whole subculture has sprung around learning to recognize and discern all sorts of "notes". Fine, great. But that in itself doesn't say anything about which kind of combination is better than another - there's talk of a basic sense of balance, but once you've got the basics covered, which particular combinations of subtle flavors are favored is basically going to be a cultural mushroom, or as the saying goes, a path dependency. If you want to discuss the extent of arbitrariness in wine tasting culture, I would mainly focus on that.

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The why isn't the whole world rich paper sounded familiar to me.

See 2017 St. Louis Fed paper


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Regarding replication, this problem can't be fixed without changing the underlying attitude that disfavors disproving published results. In many fields trying to show a published effect doesn't exist is seen as a personal attack or at least resented.

My proposal is this: For every published paper the journal reserves 3 slots that automatically go to the best (given some very minimum quality threshold) rebutal pieces submitted within certain time limits (eg 2,4 and 10 years) and the paper, rebuttals and potentially a response from the original authors (not regarded as a new publication) all are packaged together on the online cite. A rebutal publication need not be given the full weight of a publication seen as correct despite the rebutals in hiring as long as it's given decent weight.

I think that's necessary because we can't avoid the fact that it's more valuable to identify a new and surprising phenomenon. It's a genuine skill to have the foresight to know where to look to find new interesting phenomenon and you neither can nor want to require every study that is registered be carried through to the end.

But you do want to clean up the record so reward the ppl who do that.

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Nov 24, 2022·edited Nov 24, 2022

Seems like nobody pointed this out (and apologies if I'm slow on the ball), so: Scott, you've misspelled "ginkgo" in the beginning of your article. "Gingko" is probably one of the most common non-typo misspellings in the English language, but it's properly (and unintuitively) spelled ginkgo, G I N K G O.

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fun article! i had head of the "can't tell white from red" study and had wondered same thing, great to see you look into the topic

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This comment is probably late to the party, but...

Re: "Is Wine Fake" article, I don't know why it's so surprising that we can train our qualia to enhance our perception of the world. Of course, there's a bigger question at play here: how much of our discernment is the result of innate hard-wired biology vs learned abilities? If we divide our qualia into the five senses (which I think is perhaps an overly reductionist way of categorizing our sensorium) we can see lots of evidence that learning plays an important role in our ability to make qualitative judgments about what we're perceiving.

Recently on NPR's Radio Lab. there was a discussion about absolute pitch (aka perfect pitch) which according to Wikipedia: "is a rare ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone." Radio Lab spoke to some researchers that claimed absolute pitch approached 70% in populations that used tonal languages (Chines), but in populations whose language was not tonal, AP is less than 10%. That suggests that AP is a learned skill—and some other studies suggest that it only can be acquired early in life.

When it comes to vision, cultural anthropologists and linguists have been arguing over whether color categories are inherently programmed into our wetware or whether language and culture have an influence on our categorization of color perception effects. This was in response to the idea that colors were universally delimited by the number of primary color words in a language. For instance, if a language has six basic color words, they were always for black, white, red, green, yellow, and blue. If a language only had four terms, they were for black, white, red, and then either green or yellow. If it had only three, they were always for black, white, and red.

Others countered that this may be true, but just like Inuit have dozens of (agglutinative) terms for snow, and Yiddish has the most terms for unpleasant people, Korean has the most terms for colors—especially shades of yellow. And it's difficult for non-native speakers to learn to distinguish them, but dedicated learners can with some help from native speakers.

Then there's taste. Training and practice will improve one's discernment. I watched a chef friend of mine decode the ingredients in a dish we were served at another friend's restaurant.

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I don't want to come across as a wine snob on a budget, but you have to really give me a reason to try any bottle of pinot under $40. I was talking to a friend who recently moved to Portugal--that's a thing now, I guess--and she told me that their everyday wines are like $3.00 a bottle and some good wines are around $10. I think that the overpriced wine phenomenon is mostly in California, but I could be wrong.

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Nice article on wine! One thing I (a French person, not a wine expert) was surprised not to see in the article is a point about price versus ageability. A key point that appears quite consistent among people I know (not wine experts either) is that aged wine tastes good, finer, and better than young wine. But most wines cannot age that long. Some wine can age 3 to 5 years before turning bad, but some can age 20 to 30 years, or even significantly more. A commonly shared opinion in France is that super-expensive wines are also wines that are expected to last really long (when aged in proper conditions, ideally in a cellar). Many French people (owning a cellar) will buy an expensive-ish wine to age it for, say, 15 years, and drink it at a special even. When this happens, it is always a great moment, where the wine really has this well-aged old wine taste which many people love and don't get to taste so often.

So, for me, one of the key distinction between the 2 euros - 15 euros range and the 30 euros - 150 euros range is that the latter is expected to contain wines known to age well for a long time, which is an amazing quality (or even, if you want, a good investment - aged wine can be sold for much higher prices). I don't think I can tell a super expensive wine from a 5 euros wine consistently (France has tons of amazing 5 euros wines), but I'm quite sure (>85%) I will appreciate a 15y old wine that aged well much better than any <5y old red wine more than 80% of the time.

All of the above applies solely to red wine (considerations about aging are not the same for white) and for the price ranges I mentioned, I don't have opinions on the 150 euros range versus the 1000 euros range, having never tried the latter.

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I drink a fair amount of wine and catalogue my bottles on cellartracker.com, which is a free web site to keep track of your wines (you can also pay, but it's not required). Many thousands of people use the site and record their own ratings of their wine. When I see a bottle with a high rating from an expert (e.g., wine spectator), I check to see what people on cellartracker.com say about it, a bit like crowdsourcing. It's not foolproof, of course, for some of the same reasons Scott mentions in his article, but if an expert gives a high rating, but the cellartracker ratings are low enough, I'll know it's probably not worth it to buy that wine.

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A bit late, but how can experts have blind taste tests between French and Californian wines if they can tell where the wines originate by taste? I don’t understand why experts would agree to this - isn’t even agreeing to do it to acknowledge that they can’t distinguish wines accurately? And if, as Scott concludes, experts can distinguish wines, then why would Californian wines win when blinded but lose when unblinded?

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Nov 28, 2022·edited Nov 28, 2022

You obviously don't know pinot noir--it's only one of the hardest grapes to grow and French oak ain't cheap either (of course, Ridge uses American oak).

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Re: "How far beyond wine you want to apply this is left as an exercise for the reader." (in "Is Wine Fake?")

I don't understand. Can someone explain what else Scott had in mind that this might be applied to?

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This might have been said, but the constantly updating scroll bar on the left side of mobile articles is a bit distracting. I like its intention, but perhaps it’d be more appealing (and subtle) on the right margin?

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What I was missing a little bit is the question "are prices fake?" especially in the fragment about champagne ranging from 400 to 18 pounds per bottle. Wine lovers certainly know that some hard-working and caring champagne makers can make really really good wine and the very expensive champagnes are also very good, but not necessarily always better. Prices have a lot to do with other things than quality. Of course you know that but it was not reflected enough in the piece, I think.

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Great article and fun to read. I am a WSET level 4 wine expert and fellow Substack writer at Wine Wanderings. I have been told I am a super sniffer, but more importantly as a biochemistry/microbiology major I do believe in the science of the aromas of wine as you state in your reference to gas chromatography. Thank you for your thought-provoking article.

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