Crin Roja – Genius Subliminal Wine Packaging

November 18, 2011 By: erik Category: Geeky, Photos, Reviews, Wine 1,411 views

Rate this post:
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Crin Roja - ThumbnailMost of the wine I buy is not the dirt cheap young cosechero, the wine from grapes from last year’s harvest which is usually about 1.50€/bottle. Nor do I buy reserva from the best regions and vineyards, made from better grapes and kept in oak barrels for at least a year which sells for at least 10€/bottle. I normally buy crianza, the middle quality, from good regions (mostly Rioja) and good vineyards, wine which has spent at least six months in oak barrels and usually retails between 4€ and 5€. For the better Rioja vineyards, the grapes are so good that the cosechero, which has spent little to no time in barrels is almost as good as a crianza, at just under the price.

However, I’m always on the lookout for a good cheap cosechero, which is pretty rare. A couple weeks ago, some bottles of Crin Roja at my local grocer caught my eye. Surely the 1.90€ price was placed there by accident, I thought. Already I was being manipulated by the genius packaging.

If we think we are tasting a Grand Cru, then we will taste a Grand Cru.

I picked up a bottle and continued shopping. At the checkout, I asked the cashier if she knew anything about this wine, and she responded that it was a great wine for the price, a good “weekday” wine, and it was the wine that her father drank with his lunch everyday.

The wine was quite good, definitely one of the highest quality/price ratios I’ve ever consumed. I won’t bore you with those bizarre adjectives wine connoisseurs use, as I’m not one. But I am a bit of a psychology connoisseur, so I would like to discuss things this winemaker did very, very right in packaging their wine.

Crin RojaFirst of all, the name is genius. It literally means “red [horse] mane”, hence the horse logo, but out of the corner of your eye, or with the movement of someone pouring you a glass, any Spaniard or wine drinker knowledgeable about Spanish wines is going to see the words Crianza and Rioja, both of which are marks of quality and their usage is highly regulated. You have to get official certification to put either word on your wine bottle. Crin Roja is neither crianza nor Rioja; it’s from a vineyard called Viní­cola in Castilla La Mancha.

Secondly, you almost never see gold netting on bottles of wine in my price range. Only the very finest wines, usually reserva or gran reserva are netted. The internet tells me that this tradition originates from an intent, by rich Europeans of yore, to prevent the house staff from opening the expensive bottles in the cellar for themselves before refilling and recorking them with an inferior wine.

Why is all this important? Not only do these clever tricks make the wine sell better, but they actually make it taste better!

The industry of expensives wines is mostly all bullshit. Blind taste test after blind taste test have shown that those of us that are not wine experts (and the experts, too, to some extent) base our estimations of wine quality on subliminal and priming stimuli, with price being the primary factor. As neuroscientist Jonah Lehrer explains in his book, Proust Was a Neuroscientist,

What these wine experiments illuminate is the omnipresence of subjectivity…Our human brain has been designed to believe itself, wired so that prejudices feel like facts, opinions are indistinguishable from the actual sensation. If we think the wine is cheap, it will taste cheap. And if we think we are tasting a Grand Cru, then we will taste a Grand Cru.

Our sensations from drinking wine are interpreted by a subjective brain that is also factoring in biases and beliefs and expectations. Just like the placebo effect still works even when the patient knows they are getting a placebo, cheap wine in a fancy gold netted bottle with words that look like crianza and rioja will taste better, even if you know it’s all just clever packaging.

Crin Roja


  • Lee

    I just bought a great 2.99€ Rueda Verdejo at SuperSol. (Decent whites are a little more fragile so cost a bit more, I think).

    I used to work up in the northeast corner of Huesca, in Benasque, and got to like the Somontanto wines. If you ever get a chance to try wines from Otto Bestué, do so. They have some 5-6€ reds that are wonderful. (They’re down the road from Enate.)

  • Bnann

    I agree with most of the article but beg to differ on the last point. I will not say whether a 300 euro price is justified, but I can tell when I really like the wine more without looking at the price (it always is a more expensive one!!) Last time this happened it was with a Baigorri (me saying, oh this IS nice), and later found out the name and that it retails at around 10-11 euros for a Crianza compared to the typical 5-6. I have no other pretensions of knowing anything much about wines!

    A tip. We buy our “everyday” wine by going to a small town called Cuzcurrieta in La Rioja, and getting a 10 litre cardboard-aluminium affair with a special vaccum tap. There are many bodegas in the town, we get it from one called La Cooperativa on the outskirts. If you ask for Tinto de Madera, it is Crianza wine which the bodega cannot bottle as such because production is much more than the quota allowed by the DO. The 10 litres costs around 17 euros and the tap-aluminum contraption means it stays good for months. The cosechero is even cheaper, around 13 euros I think.

    If you want it really cheap, bring your own “container” and they will fill it up at a large discount. Once a year is usually enough and you can fill the boot up for family and friends.

    • Oooh! I like the idea of excess crianza. Cuzcurrieta is only two hours away from me. At 17€ for 10L, that’s only 78 eurocents per bottle! I might have to organize a day trip! I’ve been meaning to do something like that for a while now.

      I would like to think that I can tell a really fine wine from a crap one, too, but the truth is that we rarely find ourselves in a situation where we are 100% ignorant of the wine we are tasting, so I’ve got to assume that I’d be just as clueless as the experts tested in those famous double-blind Bordeaux wine experiments where experts couldn’t even differentiate between red wine and white wine with tasteless food coloring.

      • red wine and white wine are often made from the exact same varieties of grapes, and even the quintessential red wine grape, cabernet sauvignon, is a cross between sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc. so to expect their tastes to be wildly different is unreasonable. we choose white wines to fit different circumstances than red. different food, different weather, and different events. so to expect the language we use to describe them to be similar is also unreasonable. 
        obviously, price, packaging, and presentation make a lot of difference. i’m sure that wine that i’ve consumed during special events is biased in my recollection as being better than it truly was. but all of this misses a very large point. if you take the time to slow down and appreciate your wine, there is a vast range of complexity present in the taste and smell of wine that can greatly overshadow the differences in price, packaging, and presentation, particularly if you are vigilant in distancing yourself from those factors.

        you don’t have to run a double blind taste test (i have)  at a romantic meal (but not then!) you just need to appreciate the art of the label, the money you spent, and the real enjoyment of the moment in turn with the flavor and smells of the wine. you can’t be afraid to say that a wine is terrible. and must try to not be personally invested in your selection Try to think of it as a tasting adventure instead of a validation of your purchasing decision. it is important to use language that makes sense to you and your companions. if it tastes like tobacco or asparagus or smells like cat urine or rotten eggs, use that language. it doesn’t have to be described as being like some obscure fruit you’ve never tasted. the more effort you put into it the more rewarding it can be. and to hell with the market if your tastes don’t correlate with pricing.

        p.s. i take no responsibility if your date runs off in horror after you describe a wine as tasting like cat urine.  

  • Great post! I’m going to keep an eye out for this wine. One thing I can say for sure is that price and packaging definitely don’t seem to have any correlation when it comes quality of wine from the US (well, to some degree anyway). I’m sure they affect it, but it’s amazing the difference between price and quality here versus there. Not sure where my expectations play into all of this – all I know is that I’m glad I can buy a decent bottle of wine for 2 euros. Viva España. 🙂

  • Hayley

    You had me at cheap bottle of wine… now off to the store to see if it’s in stock.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve had some expensive wines that weren’t all that great and others, much less expensive, that were pretty good.  And I can vouch for the fact that most people really can’t tell the difference.  We went to a dinner once, where most of the people said they were real wine connoisseurs, and we did a blind taste test…and the ones who claimed to know the most got every single one wrong.  Of course, I’m pretty sure I’d know the difference between Don Simon and a crianza, but I probably wouldn’t be able to distinguish between the better wines in the lower price range and most crianzas.  I think you’re right about the psychological factor, and it does influence how we perceive things.