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December 26, 2021

Are more expensive wines really that much better?

While many wine lovers will tell you otherwise, the most dominant flavour in that glass of Merlot may its price tag.

Wine"We’ve known for a long time that there’s a correlation between what you pay for a wine and how good it tastes to you, but this correlation only exists, of course, when people know the price," says Dan Ariely, author of The Upside of Irrationality.

To prove his point, he references the work of wine critic Robin Goldstein, whose paper detailing more than 6,000 blind tastings maintains that “individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine.”

Goldstein argues that most people buy wine based on image rather than any combination of smell or taste and that our expectations do influence our enjoyment.

As a result, when most people are given wine without seeing the label, they’re just as likely to prefer cheaper wines as compared to more expensive wines.

In his followup book, "The Wine Trials" Goldstein makes it clear that what appeals to everyday wine drinkers is significantly different than what interests wine experts.

People’s buying decisions are influenced by many factors, including price, marketing, power of suggestion, etc. Take away all of these factors and everyday wine drinkers actually prefer cheaper wines to more expensive wines.

One would assume that wine, like most other products, follows basic price theory: you get what you pay for.

It's not that simple, of course. There are actually three scales for judging wine: Like versus dislike, a subjective measure based on personal taste; good versus bad, an objective measure based on a technical knowledge of wine; and cheap versus expensive, a market driven measure based on fashion and scarcity.

Do you enjoy less expensive wines just as much? Or is there really much more of  much of a difference?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money




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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...