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Would you pay more for a hard-to-pronounce wine? A new study says yes

Sheryl Nadler
Shine On
June 27, 2012

It's Saturday night and you're trying to choose a wine for dinner. Will you opt for the Solutre-Auvigue Pouilly-Fuisse chardonnay for $23.95? Or Angus the Bull cabernet sauvignon for $20.05? A new study out of Brock University suggests if you know a thing or two about wine — or think you do — you might opt for the former, based solely on its name.

The study, which was conducted in a controlled lab at the university, showed that when the wine was given a name that might be difficult for English-speakers to pronounce, participants not only liked the perceived taste of the wine better, they also showed a higher willingness to pay more for product, says the project's lead researcher Antonia Mantonakis.

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"This finding was especially the case for participants who had a higher knowledge about the product of wine," she says.

Listen to Mantonakis describe her study's finding in the video below:

Choosing a wine based solely on its name or the cleverness of its label is nothing new to LCBO (Ontario's liquor board) spokesperson Chris Layton.

"There are a lot of wines out there, so an eye catching package makes the wine stand out," he says. "Certainly some of the fun names that have appeared in the last five, ten years have helped in the terms of recognition and sales."

But he says the LCBO's own research suggests there's more at play for consumers when choosing a wine than just fancy names and packaging. Consumers have become more knowledgeable about wine, he says, and the more consumers know about a wine, the more they buy.

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Layton says a recent telephone survey of 400 customers showed 40 per cent want to learn more about wine. Which is why the LCBO has recently implemented their Shopping Made Easy program, which saw the addition of shelf notes describing the style and sweetness of each bottle in the store. The increase in information about their products has translated into a seven per cent increase in wine sales, this year over last, during the recent testing period, he says.

Aside from the new in-store descriptors, consumers get their information about wine in other ways. Layton says a study conducted by the LCBO in 2008 of 4,993 people showed it breaks down as follows:

79% from friends and family

73% from shelf notes in the store

58% from Food & Drink Magazine

45% from takeaway brochures in the store

40% from restaurants and sommeliers

35% from newspapers

29% from wineries

25% from Air Miles mail-outs

So why did Mantonakis' test subjects prefer wines with names that were more difficult to pronounce?

"Because wine geeks will hunt for just about any subtle difference they can find, like a unique sounding name," she tells NPR.

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