WAMU 88.5 : Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics: The Days of Wine and Mice

Geoffrey Fairchild

When you take a sip of Cabernet, what are you tasting -- the grape? the tannins? the oak barrel? Or is it the price? Believe it or not, the most dominant flavor may be the dollars. Thanks to the work of some intrepid and wine-obsessed economists (yes, there is an American Association of Wine Economists), we have a new understanding of the relationship between wine, critics, and consumers. One of these researchers is Robin Goldstein, whose paper detailing more than 6,000 blind tastings reaches the conclusion that "individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine." So why do we pay so much attention to critics and connoisseurs who tell us otherwise? That's the question we set out to answer. You'll hear Steve Levitt, who admits his palate is "underdeveloped," and pulls a wine stunt on his elders at Harvard's Society of Fellows; and wine broker Brian DiMarco, who pulled a stunt of his own on his very wine-savvy employees.

Also in this episode of Freakonomics Radio, Stephen Dubner witnesses something that would doom any dining experience: while eating at a restaurant, a customer one table away was served a salad with a dead mouse in it. So, how does a business respond in the face of such a disaster? Vincent Herbert, the CEO of the restaurant in question, Le Pain Quotidien, explains what happened and how he coped; and crisis-control expert Andrew Gowers talks about facing the public on behalf of Lehman Brothers, post-collapse, and BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


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