Slapping a Chateau on the Label Makes a Bottle of Wine Seem Fancier, Study Finds

Superficial factors like corks and heavier bottles also swayed wine drinkers' tasting preferences and perceptions of overall quality.

I was forced to take one semester of French in middle school, so I'm not an expert in the language, but a "chateau" is kind of just a house. A nice big house out in the country, sure, but a house nonetheless. And yet, a new study found that simply putting a picture of a chateau on the side of a wine bottle was enough for a plurality of consumers to assume it was the most expensive wine in a group.

The supermarket Aldi partnered with Charles Spence — a food psychologist at Oxford University known for his unique research on food and drinks — to look into how people judge quality when selecting wine.

A woman shopping for wine
Yiu Yu Hoi / Getty Images

Asked to decide which wine was the most expensive just by looking at them, 34 percent of respondents, the largest group, guessed that a £10 bottle of wine (about $13) with an image of a chateau on the label was the priciest, whereas only 15 percent actually identified the most expensive bottle, a £95 selection (about $127) labeled with simple black italicized writing on a beige background, according to Wales Online.

Other reported quirks in judging wine value found during the survey were that 25 percent of drinkers believed a cork indicated nicer wine than a screwcap while respondents also said they would pay as much as 40 percent more for a wine with a heavier bottle.

Finally, in a blind taste test, a £6.49 supermarket wine ($8.69) reportedly beat out a £36 bottle ($48) bought from an independent wine store. When asked what they were willing to pay for the bottles, the respondents valued the $8 wine as worth over $13 while the same group said they'd only pay about $10 for the more expensive wine.

"The results clearly show that you don't always get what you pay for in terms of preference when tasting wines blind," Spence was quoted as saying. "This is entirely consistent with numerous previous studies showing there's little relation between liking and price with wines. As the survey indicates that shoppers often use price as a factor in quality, this classic buying behavior can often end up costing customers thousands over a lifetime."

According to The Drinks Business, the study surveyed over 2,000 U.K. consumers online and enlisted an additional 53 people for the blind taste test.

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