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Wine's placebo effect: How the extrinsic cues of visual assessments mask the intrinsic quality of South African red wine

David A. Priilaid (School of Management Studies, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, Republic of South Africa)

International Journal of Wine Marketing

ISSN: 0954-7541

Article publication date: 1 January 2006




Through the use of both sight and blind‐based quality metrics, the purpose of this paper is to ascertain the extent to which the sighted appreciation of a wine's intrinsic merit is confounded by extrinsic cues such as price and region of origin.


Using a database of sighted and blind tastings of three red South African wines (Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz) over the period 1993‐2001, a series of multiple linear regression models is developed to explain sighted quality ratings.


The meta‐model, with an adjusted R2 of 31 per cent, indicates three statistically significant explicatory factors, namely price, region, and intrinsic quality. The price cue alone explains 84 per cent of sighted quality assessments; the combined effect of both the region and price cue explains 95 per cent. This finding suggests that when quality is measured from a sighted perspective, area becomes a significant explicator, along with price. It is only once the cues of region and price have been factored into the meta‐model that intrinsic merit becomes relevant, and here, only to an extremely limited extent (5 per cent). The lack of correspondence between sighted and blind tasting scores, suggests that for sighted judgements – extrinsic cues appear to be masking the wine's intrinsic merit.


For the first time, blind and sighted tasting results are collated into one database and statistically interrogated. The findings show how we are deleteriously distracted by the apparent efficacy of extrinsic cues.



Priilaid, D.A. (2006), "Wine's placebo effect: How the extrinsic cues of visual assessments mask the intrinsic quality of South African red wine", International Journal of Wine Marketing, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 17-32.



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