I think we can all admit to getting a little emotional after a few too many glasses of wine. But according to a study done at the University of Adelaide, our emotional response to wine actually begins much earlier. They found that wine descriptions could make study subjects feel more emotional about booze, perhaps making them more likely to buy it as a result.
The researchers had 126 wine drinkers taste three different white wines through three rounds of samplings: a blind tasting with no information, the provision of a basic sensory description (like "crisp acidic finish" or "passionfruit aromas"), and a tasting where the wine was given an elaborate or emotional description (flavors, plus winery details and fancy words like "delicate" and "intoxicating"). The participants completed a taste scale and an emotional scale after each sample. They reported how irritated they felt, for example, or how content or passionate.
“Giving [participants] more information, and giving them positive information, evoked more positive emotions and made them like the wine more, and made them increase their willingness to pay for those wines substantially,” says co-author Lukas Danner, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Adelaide.
“It’s obviously better to make the wine description more emotional, personal, or engaging, and really that’s true of selling any product or any story,” says Adam Alter, an associate professor of marketing at New York University who was not involved in the study.
But just throwing a fancy description on the back of a bottle of cheap hooch won’t turn it into top-shelf vino. If the wine doesn’t reasonably live up to the standards set by a description, your mischievous marketing could definitely backfire.
“If those expectations aren’t met by the product or the sensory properties of the product, the positive effect of the information gets smaller, or even goes into negative,” says Danner. “You can’t just make up whatever you want for the labels and say if there is more positive information, more emotional information, the consumer will like it.”
So if a wine that claims fanciful flavors, superior ingredients, and a rich company history doesn’t follow through, the willingness of a drinker to pay for the wine—or perceive it as high-quality—might actually be lower than if they'd tasted the same bottle without false promises beforehand.
Advice for wine producers and sellers? The importance of well-written (and honest) labels and ads.
“If a person can provide a little bit of background information or describe the wines, it might have influence on the overall experience of the consumers when they drink it,” says Danner.