Massachusetts Beverage Business



Perception really is everything when it comes to buying wine. Studies have already shown that many people assume a wine is better if it has a difficult to pronounce name. Now, a new report suggests that shoppers would be happy to pay more for a bottle of wine if it was heavier. Despite the fact that all standard bottles contain the same 75Oml of fluid, a survey found that consumers believe heavier bottles are more expensive and contain higher-quality wine. This could be down to the historic use of thicker bottles to protect more expensive wines in transit, or to the general tendency people have to estimate heavier things as being more valuable. But the bias toward weight allows wine producers to “trick” customers into paying more for certain wines simply by packaging them in bottles which are made from thicker glass or have a deeper punt on the underside, researchers said.

An analysis of 275 wines from five countries on sale in an Oxford shop found that heavier bottles were on average more expensive and to be from an older vintage, while red wine bottles weighed more on average than white. The findings, published in the food quality and preference journal, showed that average consumers were more likely than amateur collectors or professional wine experts to be influenced by a bottle’s weight. Asked to what extent, on a scale of one to nine, they agreed with the statement that heavier bottles were more expensive and higher quality, general shoppers answered 7.1 and 6.6 respectively. In contrast, people with some experience or expertise in wine buying answered only slightly above the middle of the scale in response to both questions.

Professor Charles Spence, co-author of the study, from Oxford University said, “The weight-quality correlation is a general response we have in many different product categories from heavier car keys to remote controls being judged as better quality. In wine it may have been (historically) that the more expensive wines were in heavier bottles to prevent breakage. Today I think it is definitely done more with marketing in mind than preservation of the contents. It is something to be cautious about. Sometimes you see people wandering around a shop with a few bottles in their hands and weighing them up while deciding which one is better. If you know about this, you are less likely to be manipulated by these subconscious cues.” Although heavier bottles were found to be more expensive, the extra cost does not necessarily translate to higher quality, Spence said. But drinking wine out of a heavier glass could make the same wine taste better because of the way the brain associates weight with value, he added.

Back to the top »