You can file this under the heading “Yeah, well we all knew that anyway,” but I find it fascinating to get a bunch of economists confirming our suspicions. Not only have these folks figured out that THE most important thing in determining the value of a wine at auction is its label (i.e. the name, brand, reputation, region and vintage) but they’ve done one better. They’ve actually proven that when people tasted the wine before they bid on it, no matter what the label said, they paid less for it! Let me repeat that for full effect. The power of the label is so strong we actually pay more for wines that we know only by reputation, rather than having tasted the wine to know whether it’s any good.
Apparently they did this study on a bunch of Champagne auctions where they had some people taste wines blind, some people taste the wines and see the label after, some people tasted the wines while looking at the label, and some didn’t taste at all. Those who didn’t taste at all paid the highest prices, those who tasted while seeing the label paid the next highest, and those who tasted blind paid the least for the wine.
It’s so very hard to escape our psychology, isn’t it? So don’t be too hard on yourself for occasionally grabbing that attractive bottle, or ordering a recognizable name off the list instead of something you’ve never heard of. We just can’t help it.