Can the price of wine change how we perceive its taste?

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Brian Adam
Professional Blogger, V logger, traveler and explorer of new horizons.
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Wine tasting is an activity designed to please the senses, especially when it comes to taste and smell. However, new research could prove that the tasting experience is influenced by many more factors than just these two senses. In fact, according to a recent study, the good taste of a wine could be more related than we thought to the price it is believed to have.

A recent publication in Food Quality and Preference supports this claim by citing an experiment conducted in Switzerland. Behind him were researchers Christoph Patrick Werner, Johanna Birkhaeuer, Cosima Locher, Heike Gerger, Nadja Heimgartner, Ben Colagiuri and Jens Gaab.

We know well that, depending on the food we eat, chemical reactions in our own mouths can change how wine tastes to us. But now, it seems, just seeing a price on the label of the drink can also have a placebo effect that leads us to appreciate the taste of this more, just because it is more expensive.

An unconventional wine tasting

Glass of red wine contrasted with the intense blue of the sky.
Via Piqsels.

The public event at the University of Basel in Switzerland started like any other. As soon as the participants began to arrive, they were placed at individual tables and asked not to speak to their neighbors. Everything so that their opinions on the wines to be tasted did not influence each other.

In total, the event attracted 140 individuals who participated in the tasting session that lasted about 15 minutes. During this time, the volunteers had to taste six different types of wines in a specific order – which was chosen randomly for each participant.

When tasting each glass, people had to write down on a piece of paper their level of liking for the wine and how intense they considered it. Half of the glasses were not identified, nor did they have a visible price. The other three carried labels showing their classification as cheap, intermediate or expensive wines.

Person pouring white wine from the bottle to a glass in the middle of a vineyard.
Credit: Alicia Bruce.

It was here where the tasting went from being a simple event to becoming the researchers’ experiment. In most cases, at least one of the labeled wines had been misclassified. That is, it could be a frame times more expensive or cheaper than what the label said. Without having an idea of ​​this, the responses of the tasters showed a clear preference bias associated with the price.

Mentioning a higher price “improves” the taste of a cheap wine

In general, the classifications of the wines that were not labeled, remained stable among the participants. The change came when the taste of each wrongly labeled wine was measured. In these cases, no matter how cheap they actually were, wines with higher price tags were given higher marks.

“Thus, the truth may be in the wine, but its subjective experience may also be in the price,” the authors concluded.

Bottle of red wine emptying its contents into a glass.
Via Pixabay.

According to the researchers, their results were in line with previous similar studies. Within them, as in the current one, it was seen that the levels of satisfaction expressed with respect to a wine were more related to its price than we believed.

On the other hand, other studies have seen that the appreciation of its intensity remained stable and generally did not change – even when an attempt was made to influence it through prices. In order to unify these views, the authors measured both variables. Here, their results also agreed. Which showed that the subjective appreciation of the flavor of a wine depends not only on its intrinsic qualities, but also on information or external stimuli, such as the price that it is said to have.

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