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People pay more for wine based on where it’s from, not its taste

A new study has revealed that people will pay more for wine based on where it comes from rather than how it tastes. An international team of researchers conducted a blind taste test in Hong Kong and found that factors unrelated to taste had more influence on how much the consumers were willing to spend.

The investigation involved experts from Hong Kong, Korea, Washington State University (WSU), and the University Minnesota.

The trial was organized into three phases, and a total of three red wines and three white wines with similar retail prices were served in each phase. The wine originated from six different regions including Western Cape, South Africa; Iowa, USA; Rheingau, Germany; Rioja, Spain; Wisconsin, USA; and Argentina.

The first phase was a completely blind taste test, during which the participants were given no information about the wine. For the second stage of tasting, the participants were provided with the wine’s country of origin. In the third phase, the individuals were given a complete background of the wine, such as grape variety, region, and winery of origin.

During each wine tasting, participants rated the wine according to selected attributes and assigned a value that they would be willing to pay for it.

Study co-author Byron Marlowe is a clinical assistant professor in Hospitality Business Management at WSU Tri-Cities.

“Most of the wines did fairly well in the first treatment, when all of the individuals were completely blind to the wine details,” said Professor Marlowe. “But they do worse when revealed that the wines are from regions that they are not as familiar with or with varietals that they aren’t familiar with.”

The researchers found that revealing the origin of the wines from Iowa and Wisconsin had a negative influence on how much participants were willing to pay for them. The testers indicated that they would pay an average of $2.70 to $4.80 less per bottle than the retail price of the wines.

Professor Marlowe explained that this outcome is likely due to the fact that these regions are not widely known for growing grapes or for wine production.

“All of a sudden, when participants know they’re drinking a wine from the Midwest, where cold and hardy varietals are grown, their immediate response is to rate it lower than wine from a more well-known region,” said Professor Marlowe.

The study also revealed that less-experienced wine drinkers relied primarily on the country of origin information for their evaluations, while those who drank wine on a regular basis relied more on sensory quality or taste.

“Teachers, wine scientists and marketers can use these details when marketing wines for Asian countries, as well as in educating individuals in those areas about wine origins and attributes,” said Professor Marlowe. “A wine produced in the Midwest in the United States may be a premium wine, but if there is a perception that it is less than, we need to overcome those factors through marketing and business tactics to help promote those wines.”

The study is published in the fall issue of the British Food Journal.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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