Wine A was the most expensive, a Vacheron Sancerre which sells for about $30.
Wine B was brought in especially by Pasanella to get a US wine: it was a Walter Hansel Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma, which retails for about $25.
Wine C was another French wine, a Domaine Massiac from the Languedoc which Pasanella was selling for $10 a bottle.
Wine D was Dog Point from New Zealand, which Pasanella sells for about $20.
Wine E was Basa from Spain, sold by Pasanella for $15 per bottle.
Armed with our range of similar whites at dissimilar prices, we embarked on a not-remotely-blind tasting, and everybody tried to rank the wines in order from most expensive to least. I also asked people to rank each wine out of 20, with limited success, since that wasn’t part of the competition and a lot of people didn’t bother. And as a tie-breaker we asked everybody to guess the price of the Dog Point. The results are in a Google spreadsheet here.
Looking at the people who judged the taste and not just the price of the wine, the results were close, but unambiguous: the best wine was C, the Massiac — more people judged it their favorite than any other wine, according to a show of hands I asked for, and it also got the highest average rating. It was certainly my favorite wine. The worst wine was D, the Dog Point.
No one really believes the efficient market hypothesis when it comes to wine: they know that Sancerre and Californian wines are generally more expensive. Still, when they ranked the wines, they tended to say that the ones they liked cost more, and the ones they disliked — especially the Dog Point — cost less.
Wines A and C — the two French wines, which were also the most and the least expensive wines respectively — both got 13 (out of 44) votes as being the most expensive wine, and both got 4 votes as being the cheapest. People clearly liked them. And people clearly didn’t think much of the Dog Point, which was voted cheapest wine by 17 people and second-cheapest by a further 16. Still, they didn’t think it was cheap cheap: the average price they put down for it was just over $20, surprisingly accurate.
No one got the exact right result (ABDEC), but two people came very close with ABCED, elevating the better Massiac and pushing down the less good Dog Point. Rolfe Winkler came in second place — he won the Jill Platner gift certificate — after guessing that the Dog Point cost $45 a bottle. That seems weird, since he also said it was the cheapest wine. But then again, we’d all had quite a lot to drink by that point. The winner, David Snowdon-Jones, was pretty much spot-on, guessing $22 a bottle. He also had something of an artificial advantage: he arrived quite late, and tasted all the wines systematically, instead of just drinking them in sequence like most of the rest of us. And his dad’s a sommelier.
But many congratulations and thanks to everybody for turning up on a rainy night — we raised a lot of money for the South Street Seaport pirate-flag public art exhibition, which means it’s definitely happening. Yay!