On the fifth of December 1985, a bottle of 1787 Lafitte was sold for 105,000 pounds-nine times the previous world record. Chateau Lafitte is one of the greatest wines in the world, the prince of any wine cellar. However, there was a mystery about this bottle of wine, that it is true or not. The mystery persisted for about 20 years. It finally began to get resolved in 2005 that this bottle of wine is fake. However, for those 20 years, an unbelievable number of really eminent and accomplished figures in the wine world were sort of drawn into the orbit of these bottles. I think they wanted to believe that the most expensive bottle of wine in the world must be the best bottle of wine in the world, must be the rarest bottle of wine in the world. I became increasingly, kind of voyeuristically interested in the question of, you know, why do people spend these crazy amounts of money, not only on wine but on lots of things, and are they living a better life than me? So, I decided to embark on a quest. With the generous backing of a magazine I write for sometimes, I decided to sample the very best, or most expensive, or most coveted item in about a dozen categories, which was a very grueling quest, as you can imagine.
One of them is white truffles. One of the most expensive luxury foods by weight in the world. To try this, I went to a fancy restaurant in Manhattan. The waiter, you know, came out with the white truffle knob and his shaver, and he shaved it onto my pasta. And the charm of white truffles is in their aroma. It’s not in their taste, really. It’s not in their texture. It’s in the smell. As these white pearlescent flakes hit the noodles, this haunting, wonderful, nutty, mushroomy smell wafted up. However, 10 seconds passed and it was gone. And then I was left with these little ugly flakes on my pasta that, you know, their purpose had been served, and so I’m afraid to say that this was also a disappointment to me. There were several of these items were disappointments.
Nextly, Armando Manni is a former filmmaker who makes this olive oil from an olive that grows on a single slope in Tuscany. And he goes to great lengths to protect the olive oil from oxygen and light. He uses tiny bottles, the glass is tinted, he tops the olive oil off with an inert gas. And he actually-once he releases a batch of it, he regularly conducts molecular analyses and posts the results on-line, so you can go on-line and look at your batch number and see how the phenolics are developing, and, you know, gauge its freshness. I did a blind taste test of this with 20 people and five other olive oils. It tasted fine. It tasted interesting. It was very green, it was very peppery. However, in the blind taste test, it came in last. The olive oil that came in first was actually a bottle of Whole Foods 365 olive oil which had been oxidizing next to my stove for six months.
And I just wanted to finish by mentioning a very interesting study which came out earlier this year from some researchers at Stanford and Caltech. And they gave subjects the same wine, labeled with different price tags. A lot of people, you know, said that they liked the more expensive wine more, it was the same wine, but they thought it was a different one that was more expensive. Nevertheless, what was unexpected was that these researchers did MRI brain imaging while the people were drinking the wine, and not only did they say they enjoyed the more expensively labeled wine more-their brain actually registered as experiencing more pleasure from the same wine when it was labeled with a higher price tag.
Vocabulary & Expression
1. Voyeuristic : Voyeuristic behavior involves getting sexual pleasure from secretly watching other people.
EX ) We as a society are growing more commercial and voyeuristic all the time.
2. Embark on / upon something : to start to do something new, important or difficult.
EX ) The government has embarked upon a program of reforms.