Wine makes us feel emotional before we’ve even opened the bottle, says new research

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Moya Crockett
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Whether it was that time you burst into tears because you saw a pigeon with a broken wing, or the staff night out where you spent a solid 12 minutes telling your colleague how much you love her, most of us have experienced feeling a little over-emotional after a couple of glasses of wine.

But according to new research, the power of the grape is such that it can elicit a potent emotional response before we’ve even cracked open the bottle.

Wine researchers at the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine in Australia conducted a consumer study into how wine labels can influence consumer emotions. (Side note: can we just appreciate how brilliant it must be to be a ‘wine researcher’?)

They discovered that the descriptions on a wine bottle can have a powerful effect on how we feel about the drink that’s inside.

Not only does evocative language (such as “a luscious, full-bodied red with jammy undertones”) influence our choice of which wine to buy, it also alters our emotions, encourages us to pay more for a bottle, and increases how much we like the wine when we do eventually try it.

The research was published in the journal Food Research International. Associate Professor Sue Bastian, who led the study, says that previous research into wine labels has already proved that they can influence consumer choice.

“Our study extends these findings, showing that wine descriptions also influence our whole wine consumption experience,” she says.

“Cleverly written wine and producer descriptions when coupled with unbranded wine tasting can evoke more positive emotions, increasing our positive perception of the wine, our estimation of its quality and the amount we would be willing to pay for it.”

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Participants in the study rated three widely available white wines (Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc) in three separate taste tests. The first was a blind tasting with no information provided. In the second, people were given a basic sensory description of the wine. In the third, they were provided with an “elaborate/emotional” description of what they were drinking.

More elaborate wine descriptions, including information about the winery’s history and positive wine quality statements, were found to significantly increase how much the participants liked the wine.

People were also more likely to be positively emotional about a wine if they felt that their high expectations - elicited by the label description - had been closely matched by how much they actually liked it.

So while it’s easy to make fun of the overblown descriptions on the sides of wine bottles, the rule seems to be: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Images: iStock


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Moya Crockett

Moya is Contributing Women’s Editor at and Deputy Editor of Stylist Loves, Stylist's daily email newsletter.