The impact of setting on wine tasting experiments: Do blind tastings reflect the real-life enjoyment of wine?
International Journal of Wine Business Research
Article publication date: 30 August 2019
Issue publication date: 31 October 2019
Tasting experiments involving willingness to pay (WTP) have grown over the past few years; however, most of them occur in formal wine-tasting conditions, removed from real-world experience. This study aims to conduct experiments on wine appreciation and willingness to pay in both settings, to allow a comparison of how tasters reached conclusions in different situations.
The authors conducted two sets of experiments in Dijon, France, with knowledgeable wine drinkers, in 2014 and in 2016, to explore the relationship between wine ratings, WTP and objective characteristics (appellation, labelling and price). The first was in a formal wine-tasting setting (n = 58), and the second in the social setting of a restaurant (n = 52). The experiments involved deception: the tasters were presented with five wines, but in fact only three wines were involved, two of the wines being presented twice.
The results from the 2014 study showed that even with a group of experienced tasters, objective characteristics overwhelmed subjective assessment (taste, sensory perception) of the wine. Ratings and WTP were driven by the appellation or brand, labelling and price of the wines. The authors replicated the experiment in a social setting in 2016 which, contrary to their expectations, produced very similar results. In neither experiment did the experienced tasters detect the deception.
The social setting was a lunch in a restaurant with a group of students who were graduating together. The tasting was conducted by some of their professors, which may have influenced the results and raises questions about whether the setting was truly ‘social’. The sample size for the experiments was comparatively small and further research, including novice and expert tasters, might contradict these findings, or at least add nuances to them.
The study finds that, contrary to expectations, in the social wine consumption setting of a restaurant meal enjoyed with colleagues, objective wine characteristics over-rode subjective appreciation of the wine.
The authors wish to thank the School of Wine and Spirits Business at Burgundy School of Business for supporting the research carried out here, and the help of the reviewers which undoubtedly improved the quality of this paper.
Lewis, G., Charters, S., Lecat, B., Zalan, T. and Wolf, M.M. (2019), "The impact of setting on wine tasting experiments: Do blind tastings reflect the real-life enjoyment of wine?", International Journal of Wine Business Research, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 578-590. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJWBR-07-2018-0033
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