I've made this observation before, and I'll make it again. My wine class students are almost always initially wowed by the exuberant fruity qualities of new world wine (or the new world style). However, given a side-by-side comparison, they return to old world wine (i.e. lighter, crisper, more subdued wine), and indicate their preference for these wines.
Last night was another example of this dynamic. I taught a basic Italian wine class to a small group of wine beginners. We went through the tasting process and a few Italian wine examples. Towards the end of the class, I pulled the old switcheroo: I gave half the students a California Barbera (Renwood Barbera "Sierra Series" 2003 [$10]) and the other half Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti, 2003 [$14]. I then asked them to describe their wine to me. Finally, I told them what I had done and asked them which wine they thought they had tasted. To my surprise every student guessed correctly. Moreover, after the students tasted and compared both wines, I observed that nearly all of the students asked for another taste of Italian Barbera. They then let it be known that they preferred it over the California Barbera.
What does all this mean? I don't feel comfortable drawing any sweeping conclusions. However, I will say that I'm observing something interesting. As students 'dissect' wine through seeing, sniffing, slurping, and tasting, they seem to crave wine with more nuance and subtlety. Curious about your taste buds and preferences? Play the Barbera Challenge at home. Taste a California Barbera and an Italian Barbera d'Asti or d'Alba Which do you prefer? Why?