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01.2008

Massachusetts Beverage Business

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archivedOnWineReport

WHAT a DIFFERENCE a LABEL MAKES

Article By: MBB

IT'S TRUE: we are a nation of label snobs. Changing the label on a wine changed diners' opinions of their wine, opinions of their meal, and their decision to return to the restaurant, according to a recent Cornell University study. In the experiment, forty-one diners at the Spice Box restaurant in Urbana, Illinois, were given a free glass of Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany a $24 prix-fixe French meal. Half the bottles claimed to be from Noah's Winery in California. The labels on the other half claimed to be from Noah's Winery in North Dakota. In both cases, the wine was an inexpensive Charles Shaw wine. Those drinking what they thought was California wine, rated the wine and food as tasting better, and ate 11 percent more of their food. They were also more likely to make return reservations. Ultimately, it comes down to preconceived notions. If you think a wine will taste good, it will taste better than if you think it will taste bad. People didn't believe North Dakota wine would taste good, so it had a double curse - it hurt both the wine and the entire meal. "Wine labels can throw both a halo or a shadow over the entire dining experience," according to Cornell Professor Brian Wansink, author of the book mindless eating: why we eat more than we think (Bantam 2OO6). To confirm this, a similar study was conducted with 49 MBA students at a wine and cheese reception. Again, those given wine labeled from California rated the wine as 85 percent higher and the cheese as 5O percent higher. "Small cues such as origin of a wine or whether the label or name catches your eye often trick even serious Foodies," said co-author Dr. Collin Payne. "He (Wansink) has even conducted demonstrations of this at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and Apicious Culinery Institute in Florence." For restaurants and wineries, it's important to keep a keen eye on the effect of wine labels. Diners, on the other hand, should be careful to not overpay for a pretty bottle. The study, published this summer in physiology & behavior, is one of the few to have investigated the chain-effect of sensory expectations. Maybe we should just all drink our wine with blindfolds on.

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