The Grapevine

Retail Wine Shop Business Tips: The Quality / Price Connection

July 15th, 2014

A recent Stanford University study claims that there is no connection between quality and price. Ahem. [level-members]

They “proved” this by having people drink from two bottles of wine after being told that one cost $5 and the other $45. Everyone liked the $45 bottle more. Surprise, surprise. Of course, it was the $5 wine in both bottles.

Forgetting that this is more an exercise in psychology than wine pricing, it’s also a stupid exercise. Premium brands get to charge more in part because they’re premium brands.

Some wines are more expensive simply because few gallons are bottled. (See Burgundy, for example.)

But price does connect with quality, generally speaking. You may not find a $45 bottle of wine to be 9 times better than a $5 bottle, but that doesn’t mean you’re right. (And it brings in the subjective nature of wine tasting.)

Your best bet when talking to clients about price, quality and value – regardless of whether they are sophisticated drinkers or more inexperienced – is to keep it simple. Explain that there is some variation owing to factors like supply and demand (Burgundy doesn’t bottle a lot of wine compared to other regions), trends and fads (Could you sell any Merlot after the movie Sideways came out?) and what’s generally fashionable, but that in general, price reflects quality.

Still, there are great values to be had. Lesser known regions typically sell at a discount to the Bordeaux and Burgundys of the world. And will wines from the Loire, say, aren’t the same as those superstar regions, they can be really wonderful wines. And a lot less expensive.

There’s no point in arguing this with customers though. Let trophy hunters hunt. Sometimes they’ll overpay, sometimes they won’t. It’s simply your job to stock the best wines you can at any given price. If you make it clear that you’ve done some serious editing for them, your customers will begin to understand that there is quality to be had at nearly any price today.