I thought that subject line would get your attention 🙂
In you have an hour or so to spare, take a look at this lecture by Antonia Mantonakis entitled “Does a wine’s name influence consumer taste perception?” It also covers other influences on taste perception that have nothing to do with the wine itself.
So, to my list of factors that explain why wine tastes the way it does, it seems we can add the following two:
- Order effects
I mentioned in my earlier list that the previous wine tasted affects how the current one is perceived, but Antonia found more general order effects. In short sequences of up to 3 wines, consumers show a preference for the first one. But for longer sequences, up to 5 wines, the last one is preferred. This research is briefly referred to in the video, but I could not find a publicly accessible research article to link to.
- Linguistic fluency
Two winery names were made up, one of which was easier to pronounce than the other, but in other respects they were the same. In contrast to how linguistic fluency (ease of reading and pronunciation) affects perception of more basic consumer goods, it was found that a wine associated with the less fluent name tasted better. More details in the video and this article. I am sure I have heard it said many times that wines with simple names have an advantage in the market, but maybe that idea came about by the invalid extension of results from other product categories.
I’d like to emphasise that these results refer to reported perceptions. There is admittedly the issue of whether people say what they really think about a wine, or say what they think they should be saying. It might even vary from experiment to experiment, but MR scan evidence and a clever experimental design suggest that people at least sometimes say what they really think they perceive.
The final thing I would like to comment on is perhaps the most surprising, at least for those who fancy themselves as wine experts. The subjects in the experiments mentioned in the two points listed above were divided into two categories: those who knew more about wine, and those who knew less. Guess which group was more influenced by the order and linguistic fluency. It was the more knowledgable one!