Wine's region of origin may impact price more than taste

'Expert consumers' relied more on sensory quality or taste

wine-vinxpo-bottles 'Nontaste-related factors' may play a larger role in how much consumers are willing to pay for wine

A wine's origin, rather than its taste, may play a larger role in determining how much a person is willng to pay for the drink, a study has found.

Researchers from Washington State University in the US found through a series blind taste tests that 'nontaste-related factors' may play a larger role in how much consumers are willing to pay for wine in Hong Kong, compared with their western counterparts.

The test was administered in three stages. First, there was a purely blind tasting test, in which participants received no information about the wine.

The participants were then provided with the wine's country of origin prior to the tasting.

In the third stage, full information on the wines, including attributes such as grape variety, region and winery of origin, were provided before tasting.

During each tasting, participants were asked to taste and rate each wine according to selected attributes and assign their "willingness-to-pay" for that particular wine.

Six wines -- three reds and three whites, with similar price points, from five different countries and six different regions -- were served in each stage. "Most of the wines did fairly well in the first treatment, when all of the individuals were completely blind to the wine details," said Byron Marlowe, a clinical assistant professor at Washington State University.

"But they do worse when revealed that the wines are from regions that they are not as familiar with or with varietals that they aren't familiar with," said Marlowe.

Researchers found that revealing the country and region of origin of the wines from Iowa and Wisconsin had a negative effect on how much participants were willing to pay per bottle.

Customers indicated they would be willing to pay an average of USD 2.70 to 4.80 less per bottle than the designated stated retail price for the wines.

Marlowe said this is probably because those regions are not widely known as wine grape-growing regions, and also not for wine production.

"All of a sudden, when participants know they're drinking a wine from the Midwest, where cold and hardy varietals are grown, their immediate response is to rate it lower than wine from a more well-known region," he said.

Similar results were shown for the wines from Germany and Argentina, although further analysis found the two countries to be less effected by perception of region.

Female participants in the study seemed to have higher willingness to pay than males. Younger consumers also appeared to have higher willingness to pay than older consumers, researchers said.

"Novice drinkers" or those who had wine rarely or less than once a month, relied mainly on country of origin information in their wine evaluations, as compared to "expert consumers" or those who drink wine more than once a week and who relied more on sensory quality or taste, according to results of the study.