90+ Cellars Wines and Paul Bloom Pleasure Theory


Are wines that enthusiasts buy, drink, and derive pleasure from somehow linked to what they know about their origin, craftsmanship, and history? According to Yale Professor Paul Bloom’s TED talk, while it should be just as possible to enjoy a wine of unknown source and origin, it simply isn’t.  The following is a really enjoyable and fascinating talk by Bloom, and while I recommend viewing it in its entirety, hang in at least until the wine reference.

A portion of today’s wine market poses a complicated proposition.  Cameron Hughes and 90+ Cellars, for example, are actively homogenizing and disguising producer namesakes with the slap of a label. They purchase wine from excellent producers, of known status, and disguise the newly acquired inventory with their own branded labels.  Paul Bloom’s theory suggests that the human brain will devalue wines that are disassociated from their credible creators and pricey status.  Is it possible a bottle of these wines will not generate as much pleasure as a bottle of the exact same wine flagged with the original winery’s label and credentials?  How much does status and price figure into wine enthusiasm?

90+ CellarsWe are putting Bloom’s theory to a small test, conducting a blind tasting at the Boston Wine School on Saturday night November 17 at 7:30 PM pairing 90+ Cellar wines with like wines of similar geography, varietal, vintage, and original producer price point.  Here are the details of the tasting I have organized:

How much do you need to know about a wine to enjoy it? Producer name? Vintage? Varietal? Geography? Vineyard?  In some camps, like many of us wine geeks, deriving pleasure from glasses of wine is reliant on having all the details of origin.  We are going to put this pleasure:detail knowledge quotient to test in a blind peer tasting of one wine company’s bottles, 90+ Cellars, who sells wines without disclosing the producers names compared with venerable producers of the same grape, geography, and vintage. Could it be possible to enjoy nameless wines more than known producers?  At the Boston Wine School on November 17, our Boston Blind Tasting Group along with other experienced palates will gather to compare these wines and jeopardize our biases. 

We will taste fourteen wines, seven from 90+ and seven peer wines from well known producers of the same vintage, varietal, and geography as the 90+ wines….but ones that wine enthusiasts will know and embrace by name and reputation.  We will taste wines in pairs of two, 90+ against a peer, blind.  We’ll have the chance to vote for our favorites and see how the rebranded wines fare against known producers that we would normally buy and drink.

There is still some room at the tasting and if you are interested you can drop me a line at awjapko[at]gmail[dot]com.  Next week in WineZag; the results.

  • Jprins

    Great idea and I look forward to hearing the results.

  • http://silenescellar.blogspot.com/ Richard

    As I alluded in a conversation a while back, this tasting has problems. What important conclusions could be arrived at from this tasting? The format doesn’t support the proposition. With both wines blind how do you test Bloom’s theory?

    I am looking forward to the other attendee’s thoughts on this.

  • awjapko

    Rich,first and foremost as you know, it is just fun. But, personally, I don’t buy Brett’s 90+ wines even though I consider him a friend and respect his palate immensely. On a wine list, if all the wines we are going to taste in this upcoming tasting, both 90+ and others that I picked to pair off, I would never order the 90+. I always want to know the maker so I can have an expectation on quality prior to ordering and drinking. It will be interesting to see if nameless wines sometimes perform better than the wines I know and trust and order, mostly because I know, am familiar with, and have some level of quality expectation from the maker.

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