Cornell study shows wine labels can ruin a restaurant meal

Aug 06, 2007
Fine as North Dakota wine
Cornell Professor Brian Wansink observes how wine label switching influences the taste of diners. Credit: Gilberto Tadday

Changing the label on a wine changed diners’ opinions of their wine, opinions of their meal, and their repatronage of the restaurant, according to a Cornell University study.

Forty-one diners at the Spice Box restaurant in Urbana, Illinois were given a free glass of Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany a $24 prix-fixe French meal. Half the bottles claimed to be from Noah’s Winery in California. The labels on the other half claimed to be from Noah’s Winery in North Dakota. In both cases, the wine was an inexpensive Charles Shaw wine.

Those drinking what they thought was California wine, rated the wine and food as tasting better, and ate 11% more of their food. They were also more likely to make return reservations.

It comes down to expectations. If you think a wine will taste good, it will taste better than if you think it will taste bad. People didn’t believe North Dakota wine would taste good, so it had a double curse – it hurt both the wine and the entire meal. “Wine labels can throw both a halo or a shadow over the entire dining experience,” according to Cornell Professor Brian Wansink (Ph.D.), author of the book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (Bantam 2006).

To confirm this, a similar study was conducted with 49 MBA students at a wine and cheese reception. Again, those given wine labeled from California rated the wine as 85% higher and the cheese as 50% higher.

“Small cues such as origin or a wine or whether the label or name catches your eye often trick even serious Foodies,” said co-author Dr. Collin Payne. "He (Wansink) has even conducted demonstrations of this at at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and Apicious Culinery Institute in Florence."

For restaurants and wineries, it’s important to keep a keen eye on the possible halo or shadow of wine labels. Diners, on the other hand, should be careful to not overpay for a pretty bottle.

Source: Cornell Food & Brand Lab

Explore further: Ig Nobel winner: Using pork to stop nosebleeds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

App helps homeowners identify spiders

12 minutes ago

Each autumn the number of spiders seen indoors suddenly increases as males go on the hunt for a mate. The Society of Biology is launching a new app to help the public learn more about the spiders that will ...

A success in managed pressure drilling

2 minutes ago

As one of BP's top 40 wells globally (and the only UK well qualifying for that category in 2012), the successful delivery of the Harding field's 'Producer North East 2a' well (referred to as PNE2a) was crucial to the business. ...

Recommended for you

Ig Nobel winner: Using pork to stop nosebleeds

Sep 19, 2014

There's some truth to the effectiveness of folk remedies and old wives' tales when it comes to serious medical issues, according to findings by a team from Detroit Medical Center.

History books spark latest Texas classroom battle

Sep 16, 2014

As Texas mulls new history textbooks for its 5-plus million public school students, some academics are decrying lessons they say exaggerate the influence of Christian values on America's Founding Fathers.

Flatow, 'Science Friday' settle claims over grant

Sep 16, 2014

Federal prosecutors say radio host Ira Flatow and his "Science Friday" show that airs on many National Public Radio stations have settled civil claims that they misused money from a nearly $1 million federal ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

lengould100
not rated yet Jun 09, 2009
I guess it just shows people are determined to get what they pay for.