Wine would taste better if you thought it was expensive

Many of us order wine in restaurants (when they are not closed due to tightness), open a bottle during a romantic dinner or a family dinner, or offer wine to our loved ones when they invite us to their home. The wine is chic indeed, brings a certain class to a meal and always seems to be appreciated by all, drunk in moderation, of course. Especially when you know or think the bottle is expensive!

It happened that a restaurant served the wrong wine!

Imagine the scene: four Wall Street employees walk into one of New York’s most prestigious restaurants. There they are served the most expensive bottle of wine: a Mouton Rothschild from 1989, which costs the modest sum of 2000 dollars. The group’s host, who declares himself a wine connoisseur, emphasizes that the wine is of exceptional purity. In reality, however, the group accidentally received the cheapest bottle in the restaurant! An $ 18 pinot noir.

While you’d think this scene probably wouldn’t happen in real life, think again. It actually happened in 2020. In fact, the bottle the Wall Street workers received was the one ordered by a young couple nearby, and vice versa. The restaurant owner apologized at the tables, of course, but as you can imagine the young couple with the mistake had gone happier than the group of Wall Street workers.

A belief that was strengthened through an experiment by psychology students

This mishap – at least for Wall Street employees – would be common on a day-to-day basis, despite the fact that true wine experts are better able to tell the difference between quality wines and cheap wines than other consumers. However, researchers have made an effort to study this phenomenon in more detail, namely why an affordable wine becomes more valuable when it is viewed as expensive.

A belief that was strengthened through an experiment by psychology students. Photo credit: Shutterstock / Dario Lo Presti

The experiment was carried out at a public event at the University of Basel in Switzerland. The psychology department had actually offered a wine tasting, which attracted 140 visitors. At each tasting, participants sat at a different table from the other participants and were asked not to share the experience with others so as not to affect their wine tasting.

The psychology department presented the participants with 6 glasses of wine, 3 without a label and 3 with a label indicating a low, moderate and high price. Note, however, that the labeled wine glasses can be stolen for a price four times higher or lower.

Expensive wine is still easy to spot, even if it skews its price.

The experiment showed that the participants did not notice any difference in the approval values ​​of unlabelled wines. In contrast, the participants were more likely to value the more expensive wine – even though it was actually the cheaper wine.

This study, published in Food Quality and Preference, was the first to examine the perceived intensity of blind tastings in a real-world setting and showed that most wine drinkers believe they are perceiving something different when they think they are drinking. Wine from the range. However, the study also showed that lowering the price of an expensive wine did not affect the perception of its overall notes and pleasant character, even among non-connoisseurs.