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I like to read about wine almost as much as I enjoy drinking it, and a recent trip to the bookstore turned up a provocative wine book on price and its correlation to quality.

The Wine Trials by Robin Goldstein has surprising results from “brown bag” blind tastings. At a brown bag tasting, the wine bottle is literally covered in a brown bag so the taster cannot see any part of the bottle.

The book is the result of 17 blind tastings that were held around the country in 2007 and 2008. They invited more than 500 tasters ranging in age from 21 to 88 and in professions that included wine critics, winemakers, sommeliers, professors, doctors and lawyers. The tasters included everyday wine drinkers and occasional wine drinkers.

The results?

“On the whole, tasters preferred a nine-dollar Beringer Founders’ Estate Cabernet Sauvignon to a $120 wine from the same grape and same producer: Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. They preferred a six-dollar Vinho Verde from Portugal to a $40 Cakebread Chardonnay … and when we concealed the labels and prices of 27 sparkling wines and asked people to rate them, the Dom Perignon finished 17th — behind 14 sparkling wines that cost less than $15, eight of which cost less than $10.”

The results make sense if you consider the majority of wine drinkers are everyday drinkers and not seasoned collectors or experts. However, the trials did show that experts or those with wine training and experience rated more expensive wines differently and scored them higher than others on the panels.

The following is a selection of some of The Wine Trials’ 100 recommended wines under $15 that beat $50 to $150 wines in the brown bag tastings. Most have appeared as Value recommendations in past Uncorked columns. Taste for yourself — with a brown bag or without.


  • 2008 Alice White Chardonnay, Australia
  • NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, Washington
  • 2007 Mark West Pinot Noir, California
  • 2007 Paul Jaboulet Aine Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone, France
  • 2007 Campo Viejo Rioja, Spain
  • 2008 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand
  • 2008 Crane Lake Sauvignon Blanc, California
  • 2007 Fetzer Valley Oaks Merlot, California
  • 2007 Concannon Petite Sirah, California
  • 2007 Trapiche Malbec, Argentina
  • 2007 Rosemount Shiraz, Australia
  • NV Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry, Spain