A reflection on the price of wine.
One question we get asked about wine is, “Is it worth the money?”
Worth, like beauty, is subjective. Indeed, asking the “worth” question is really another way of asking, “Is it worth it to you?” It’s clear, though, that what people really mean when they ask this question is, “Do you think this is worth it to me?” So how does one begin to answer that?
Wines range in price from just a couple of bucks to more than the average mortgage payment. While this is a rather wide range, the vast majority of wines hit the market at very comfortable prices. Though some folks will drop large sums on wines the way high-rollers drop fortunes on blackjack and others will balk at paying more for a wine than for the meal they intend to eat it with, there are very few who will automatically buy the cheapest wine available: we perceive that wine that costs more tastes better.
This idea is supported by numerous studies of consumers’ perceptions of quality, including one in which participants were served two identical wines but were told that one was a $5 bottle while the other cost $45. MRI scans documented changes in brain activity associated with “experienced pleasantness” when the drinkers consumed the wines they thought were more expensive. In other words, they actually experienced a better-tasting wine because they thought it cost more.
But quality is not limited to perceptions of price. Another study showed that when people were told that a free glass of wine served at a restaurant was from California, versus North Dakota, they not only rated the wine higher, but also ate more food, rated the food higher and were more likely to make a reservation to return. Interestingly, the wines were all “Two Buck Chuck,” a cheap bulk wine released under the Charles Shaw label.
These, and many other studies, all point to the inescapable fact that marketing influences consumers’ perception of worth. But consumers are best served by cultivating a willingness to try something different, such as wines made from unfamiliar varietals, blends, locations and wineries, and all along the price spectrum. Try, for example, the Dalton Alma Chardonnay-Viognier 2011 ($25), a blend that may be unfamiliar to many. Floral with notes of almonds, red apple and stone fruit within a medium bodied frame along with a mild spiciness and hints of honey. It’s certainly worth considering for the holiday table.
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