Sure, the more someone tastes expensive wine, the more they become aware of what expensive wine should taste like, and thusly will acquire the knowledge of what “good” wine tastes like. But, this doesn’t answer how the “good” wine got to be expensive and the “bad” wine cheap. – Scott

The “good” wine did not become expensive. Some wines are expensive and some are cheap to start with – categorization as good or bad follows. Let’s assume that there are some objective standards in setting the price-points of wines. Let’s crudely label them “production effort” – so the more production effort that goes into creating the final product, the higher the price (no doubt there are many factors which contribute to the pricing of a bottle that have nothing to do with the substance of the wine itself as well). It follows that such wines should have identifiable features, what you are calling “layered flavors”, that distinguish their taste from other wines. Once we accept that there are distinguishable features tied to “production effort” then it’s easy to see how these differences would correlate with price. And once there is stratification in pricing, a host of rationalization and self-promoting psychological mechanisms (e.g. expensive automatically = better; the more I spend, the more impressive I look and feel; etc..) kick in to begin to associate the profile of an expensive wine with the concept of “good”.

These features need not be related to taste. So experts and novices alike could very well both have preferences for flavors that typically appear in cheaper wines. But, since “experts” are better able to identify the features of a wine associated with production effort then they become more susceptible to the influence of these features on their preferences. Novices are immune to this influence and so their preferences map relatively more directly onto the output of their taste buds. That being said, they are still likely to be influenced by the simple “expensive=better” meme, hence my assertion that cheap wine tastes better if you don’t know the difference and you don’t know it’s cheap.

Here’s Eric Asimov several weeks ago on the article and the forthcoming book.