Studies have shown that there is a common perception that the higher the price of a bottle of wine, the better the taste and the more enjoyable it is.
During one of these studies the participants were provided with incorrect information regarding the price of the various wines tasted. It was discovered that the participants found that an inexpensive wine was far more enjoyable when it was believed to have a higher price.
The study took place at Switzerland’s University of Basel where 140 participants were provided with six different wine samples which they had to rate for pleasantness and intensity. Three of the samples provided no price information while the others displayed a price; a low, a medium and a high price.
The three wines indicating price had none, one or two of the wines incorrectly priced. The mislabeled wines were either four times higher or four times lower than the actual price.
When the price of the wine was not displayed the study showed no difference in the pleasantness rating, irrelevant of the actual price. However, the mislabelled wines showed that the level of enjoyment was directly related to the indicated price. Low-cost wines displaying an erroneous high price were found to be more enjoyable than the true higher priced wines.
In another study researchers used MRIs to scan participants’ reactions while tasting deceptively labeled wines. The research indicated that as the label price increased so did the enjoyment of the wine. During a subsequent study the same results were achieved.
The studies also showed that decreasing the displayed price of an expensive wine did not affect the overall rating for its pleasantness. However, when the price was deceptively increased most participants preferred the wine more.
Even when one wine has a legitimate higher price it should be kept in mind that the higher price can often be attributed to being produced by a prestigious winery or vintner, being a rare vintage, being produced from exceptionally old or historic vines or wines consisting of varietals that are not in abundant supply. None of these reasons necessarily noticeably impact the flavour or quality of the wine; food for thought when perusing the aisles of your local wine merchant.