Chicks Dig Expensive Wine! (Do Women Have a Price Bias?)

Vinted on May 14, 2009 binned in commentary, wine publications

You really like my limousine

You like the way the wheels roll.

You like my seven inch leather heels

and coming to all of the shows.

But…

Do you love me?

- KISS, Do You Love Me (from Destroyer, 1976)

The American Association of Wine Economists has released another working paper, which often is great fodder for wine-related discussion, unless of course you want to talk about the wine itself.  And it might piss some women wine lovers off…

This particular working paper, No. 25, is titled “WHEN DOES THE PRICE AFFECT THE TASTE? RESULTS FROM A WINE EXPERIMENT” and details an experiment performed on approximately 130 people (average age: 29) to measure how knowledge of a price of a bottle of wine impacts people’s perception of that wine (good or bad).  The experiment gave three different scenarios to the subjects:

  1. Taste then Rate the wine with no price info. given (control).
  2. Give the Price, taste, then rate the wines.
  3. Taste the wine, give the price, then rate the wine.

There were some interesting findings from this little study, including a reinforcement of the subjective nature of tasting wine:

“Objective measures of wine quality are not easily defined, and consumer tastes with regard to wine are highly heterogeneous…”

as well as what seems like the AAWE’s obligatory dig at professional wine tasters and judges (they love to do this, I think):

“Tasters are only marginally better than a random guess at distinguishing vintage years from non-vintage years from the same vineyard, or reserve bottlings from regular bottlings from the same vineyard and year, despite very large differences in price.”

and an underscoring of a not-so-revolutionary finding that seems to have been proven for nearly any kind of marketed consumer good:

“…extrinsic information provided prior to first-hand experience with the good in question has a significant effect of how the good is experienced, whereas extrinsic information provided after the experience does not.”

WARNING: Some women may want to stop reading at this point.

The most interesting finding was the gender bias that the AAWE claims resulted during the study.

…an expensive wine gets considerably higher ratings when tasters are informed about the high price before tasting, relative to tasting “blind” – but only from female tasters. By contrast, women that taste the wine before being told the price do not assign significantly higher ratings, suggesting that once they form a first-hand opinion the attribute information has little effect.”

It seems that some women at least think that they prefer expensive wine, even if the wine they’re given is not really expensive.  In other words, Chicks dig pricey wine (even if it’s not really pricey)!

The finding is interesting but I’m guessing it would hardly prove a revelation to any guy who has ever lied to a date about the price of wine and dinner.

Now, I know what some of you guys are probably thinking.

Egads!  Does she really love me, or just my expensive wine?!??

Take heart, guys – the wine doesn’t have to really be expensive, she just needs to think that it’s expensive!

But seriously, before any wineries out there up their prices, put a picture of a shirtless hot guy on the label, and contact their marketing department to start running commercials during Desperate Housewives – you all need to know a few things about this AAWE study.

As far as I’m concerned, the study isn’t scientifically reliable, and supports no real conclusions, until such time as it’s repeated (possibly with larger & larger subject groups). Otherwise, it’s just guessing based on a very small sample size.

So – guys with deep pockets and deep cellars, don’t dump your better halves just yet.  Because chances are they are really just that – your better halves!

Cheers!

(images: hollywood-elsewhere, wine-economics.org)

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    Comments

  • Matt.mmwine


    Great post! I cant comment on the study itself, since I havent read it and dont really know how it was conducted, I will say that price does indeed affect some people's decision to drink wine. On a smaller scale, Robin and I took 6 bottles of wine away with the family for Thanksgiving. No one other than us drinks red wine. However, as soon as we cracked the foil on a $100 bottle of Trefethen 2004 Reserve Cabernet, 3 people wanted a glass. Price was the sole drive in their wanting to try the wine. People want to live "the high life" and perhaps they think that MGD doesn't get them there, but $100 a bottle wine does?

    • 1WineDude


      Too funny… next time, funnel the good stuff into a 2 Buck Chuck bottle, and put the 2 Buck into the good bottle, and see what happens… ;-)

  • Arthur


    This study may be politically incorrect (and politically unpalatable) but it echoes similar findings where women were asked to rate attractiveness/desirability of men in photographs. If I recall correctly, women were given additional information about the men's professions as well as their income. I think there may also have been a study that used photographs of men in different clothing (suit, surgical scrubs, etc). But you don't need good empirical design to know that these things are a factor. Just watch Joe Millionaire.

    • 1WineDude


      Ha! Well…. I'm not gonna touch that one… ;-)

      • Arthur


        Hey, I'm just sayin'…..

  • kevin keith


    Awesome post, Dude! Love the KISS tie-in too.

    • 1WineDude


      Yeah – another closet KISS fan!

      • Arthur


        Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to use a Queensryche lyric in your next post….

        • 1WineDude


          "Greedy spiders talk to me… in my head… and I think I'm driftin……"

          Good pick. I *love* Hear in the Now Frontier. AMAZING album…

          • Arthur


            While I think that "Operation: Mindcrime" is a fantastic album, I acknowledge that "Emipre"'s commercial success was warranted.

            Is there anybody listening?
            Is there anyone that sees what's going on?
            Read between the lines, criticize the words they're selling
            Think for yourself and feel the walls
            Become sand beneath your feet

            We definitely need to hang if/and when you are in L.A. area…

            • 1WineDude


              Especially if you're busting out the Mindcrime lyrics! :-)

  • Eva


    Really? I mean really? When will these guys (and I say guys because they're all guys) study something more useful? They're the same ones who brought us the dog food study right? At least they're succeeding on one level – getting the attention of the national media. Now that they have our attention they should launch a wine brand, like wine for female dogs with expensive taste.

    • 1WineDude


      Well, my dog is on puppy prozac so I suppose that stranger things have happened! :-)

  • Alex


    I think studies like this are useful because, at the end of the day, wine makers need to sell their wines and to do that they need to market them effectively and price them palatably. Understanding people's response to price and the relationship between price & desirability of a product is really important. It would have been really interesting to see a further question in this study about whether or not people would fork out their own money on the wines at different price points and measure where price sensitivity cuts in.

    I'm a woman, so hopefully I can get away with saying this (eek!) – lots of stuff is marketed at far far far above its production price (cosmetics and perfumes are a great example of this) and is aimed at women. Ditto shoes, clothes, handbags. For a long time it's been accepted wisdom that you can't pitch shampoo or whatever at men at the same price as you can at women. I know this is gradually changing (increase in men's grooming products – 10-20 years ago would you have ever seen a male moisturiser on the market, let alone have known someone who used it?!).

    I think men & women do spend money differently and for different reasons. I don't think this is some inherent genetic thing – I believe it's very much a social thing.

    In the case of wine there could be a whole range of factors at play. For a start, if you know very little about wine you are likely to think that the more expensive wine must be 'better' and you must therefore like it more, irrespective of what you actually think. While this will affect both genders if women start feeling they know less they are more likely to succumb to this kind of thing.

    • 1WineDude


      You may be onto something, but I'm not sure this particular study proves it. For me, it needs repeatable findings before they make any of those conclusions – even if those conclusions make sense due to social pressures, as you rightly point out. Cheers!

  • joeshico


    I'm probably lucky to have an Italian wife who most likely had her first taste of wine when she first walked.
    She has introduced me to many good wines well under the $20 most people put as a limit for cheap wine.
    I'm the one that would probably give a higher rating to a wine I knew was expensive before tasting.

    • 1WineDude


      On a similar note, my wife is far, far better at guessing a wine's actual price after tasting it than I am!

  • tannic


    My girlfriend prefers expensive shoes…and my wine at employee price!

    • 1WineDude


      Hmmm… sound eerily familiar…!

  • Jen Foster


    Thanks for the post– hysterical social commentary. A few thoughts:
    1) 130 people does not make this study statistically significant, so please don't assume that the majority of women will want expensive wine and think that it's better because it's expensive.
    Why? The first time I went tasting at Silver Oak, I got a huge whiff of alcohol on the nose and almost spit it out immediately. The second time, better, but still don't love it, no matter how much it costs.
    Shouldn't it be more about the sensory experience than the pricetag?

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Jen.

      "130 people does not make this study statistically significant" – agree 100%, and I said so in the post. Of course, that won't stop it from being total dinner party for about 99.8% of guys out there… :-)

      • Jen Foster


        Agreed.. and didn't mean to sound so curt about it… I just worry whenever there is extra fodder out there to further the stereotype that women just think about labels, money, expensive things. :) It's a REALLY interesting piece of data, though, and opens up the door to a bigger examination of how cost impacts ones tastebuds.

        And not to be a total girl, but here's another analogy–the last time I bought a ridiculously pair of expensive shoes, they broke on wearing #3. Some of my Target brands are still around… 25+ wears in.

        • 1WineDude


          Not at all – I didn't take it as curt. If I was a woman, I'd be kind of pissed at the pronouncements in this study, honestly. As for the shoes – broken on wear #3? That should be illegal! :-)

  • WineLife365


    Joe,
    This is so true. But on the flip side – My wife once was unknowingly sipping on what she thought was a cheap and crappy sparkler at a bridal party. The minute she was asked, “How do you like the Dom Perignon”? Her jaw dropped and her tune then changed. All of the sudden, she thought that she was drinking the Nectar of the Gods and didn’t want to offend the host by saying it sucks.

    I think it just plays into the notion that if it costs more, then it must be better. As with all things in life, sometimes it’s true and sometime just pure bunk.

    – Tip: Pouring any wine into a fancy looking $25 Bed & Bath glass carafe is the way to make any Haute couture woman think that she's drinking an expensive wine.

    P.S.- Nice use of the Kiss song and video!

    • 1WineDude


      Cheers!

      ANOTHER closet KISS fan! YES! They are everywhere!

      :-)

  • mydailywine


    Actually what was interesting to me (once I took another look at the study), was how drastically the males scores dropped when they were told the price after tasting. If women believe that you get what you pay for, do men believe the opposite?
    Regardless, I think we all take stand alone studies like this with a grain of salt.
    i.e. Just as I was pleased to see the studies about women being better wine tasters, I still realize that men can be supertasters too.

    • 1WineDude


      Personally, I think it just confirms that guys don't pay attention, but we already knew that… :)

  • Sang Caney


    All episodes of Scrubs are live over at http://www.squidoo.com/scrubsepisodes for free if you wanna watch it online.

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