Semantron 23 Summer 2023

Behavioural economics and wine

Music has also been demonstrated to impact the tasting of wine. A study by Adrian North found that thy type of music that he played influenced how participants described the wine. The table below demonstrates the different results for red and white wine. White wine Red wine Type of music How much higher this wine was rated as this attribute (%) Powerful and heavy 32% 60% Subtle and refined 31% 41% Zingy and refreshing 40% 43% Mellow and soft 26% 25% These results suggest that, since customers will be trying different wines in the restaurants, to avoid any music that is too characteristic, a safe choice would be to stick with mellow and soft music as this has the least impact on the wine’s perception. Furthermore, in 2012 Staffo rd et al. demonstrated that loud music reduces the perception of alcohol and makes alcoholic drinks taste sweeter. Therefore, restaurants, as well as to create a more relaxing environment for consumers, should aim to keep music unintrusive so as not to subtly interfere with perceptions of wines. Environment A concept known as the Provencal rosé paradox (Gregory, 2007). This is the situation that can occur when one tastes a lovely wine on holiday and purchases some to take home, but upon trying it at home finding that it is not enjoyable. This is due to the context in which a person consumed the wine initially having an effect on the perception of the wine, but without this environment at home, it is perceived as bad wine. Restaurants can use this to their advantage by creating the nicest environments possible for their guests. Wansink and Van Ittersum (2012) found that by softening the lighting in a fast-food restaurant to create a more relaxed environment, diners rated their meals as 15% better (Spence & Piqueras-Fiszman, 2014). And a study by Velasco et al. (2013), using whisky, found a correlation between how much a person liked the room they were in, and how much they liked their beverage (Spence & Piqueras-Fiszman, 2014). For a relaxing atmosphere, Wansink and Van Ittersum suggest candles, pot plants, artworks, and tablecloths.


One could assume that all the factors described above affect only consumers but wine experts can just as easily be influenced. Wine expert and journalist, Katie Kelly Bell, tells an anecdote in which, while at a vineyard in Washington with a group of fellow wine experts, she was offered two glasses of white wine by the owner and asked to determine the variety of grape used. Bell writes: We swirled, we sniffed, we wrinkled our brows in contemplation. Some of us nodding with assurance. I took notes, finding the first white to be more floral and elegant than the second. Drawing on my years and years (there have been too many) of tasting, studying and observation, I swiftly concluded that the first wine was an unoaked Chardonnay and the second was a Sauvignon Blanc, easy-peasy. Much to my mortification I was dead wrong, as was everyone else in the room. The proprietor chuckled and informed his room… that the wines were actually the same wine; one was just warmer than the other. He wasn’t intentionally shaming us (not one person got it right);


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