Mindhacks.com (a very excellent blog to track if you're at all interested in psychology or neurology) has posted an unsurprising but still faintly depressing report of a study into one of the finer things in life: Wine tasting. And it turns out (this is the unsurprising part) that people who pay more, enjoy more. A placebo effect for the palate.
The basis of the experiment was that volunteers were asked to taste five different, individually priced wines. Except that there were only three different wines, and two of them were tasted twice with widely different prices - $10 or $90. And guess what? They preferred the more expensive one! Which begs the question: Is Penfolds Grange Hermitage really ever tasted blind? Or is the $400/bottle price responsible for its ranking as the world's best red?
What fascinates me most, however, is the reason: Increased activity in those regions of the brain responsible for regulating emotions. So in other words the experience of taste was identical between the different-priced versions of the same plonk. But the experience of the experience differed.
Ah, emotions. They'll get you every time.
This does not, however, explain why restaurants charge so much for wine. That's a desperate attempt to make enough money to stay open.