The Grapevine

What Your Wine Shop Customers Are Reading: Is Expensive Wine Worth It?

October 9th, 2014

Here’s an interesting article from Wired Magazine in 2011 that recently resurfaced for us. “Should We Buy Expensive Wine?” It depends who you’re asking. [level-members]

The article cites a study in which consumers were unable to tell which of two bottles of wine was more expensive. 600 people essentially failed to pick the more expensive bottle.

We can quibble with methodology – there’s no mention of whether the two bottles compared were $12 and $15 vs. $12 and $60 – but that misses the point. The problem is this, as the author so succinctly puts it:

“The problem isn’t with wine, or with the crude nature of the tongue – it’s that we stupidly expect wine to be an objective pleasure, a taste we can quantify on a 100 point scale. We’ve somehow turned the most romantic of drinks into a commodity worthy of Consumer Reports.”

Popular culture makes it worse by making (most of us) us feel inadequate. How many times have you seen a tv or movie character sniff a glass and identify varietal, label, and vintage? How many times have you seen that happen in real life? 

Another study cited shows how open to suggestion we are by demonstrating that people say they like a $90 wine more than a $10 wine, even when the wine in both bottles was the same. And people weren’t just making it up: their brains response showed that they actually enjoying the “more expensive” wine more.

Use this to your advantage. I’m not suggesting hoodwinking your customers. (That’s illegal, not mention immoral …) Instead, stock wines you really believe in. Sell them with the passion of that belief. And get your customers to appreciate wines they enjoy, not wines Robert Parker or Wine Spectator or someone else tells them they should enjoy. To paraphrase one shop owner we know, convince your customers to drink wine to impress themselves, not to impress their neighbors.