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Okanagan research says wine labels may be influencing your tastes

Watch: A new UBC Okanagan study suggests consumers prefer the taste of wine that has a label they can identify with.

When shopping for wine, many people rely on the label to help them make their selection.

Now, a study conducted in the Okanagan suggests how the label looks can actually impact how consumers feel the wine tastes.

According to graduate student research at UBC Okanagan, if you identify with the label, you’re more likely to like what’s inside the bottle.

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Master’s student Darcen Esau used online surveys and blind taste tests to come to come to the conclusion that if you identify with a wine label it can actually influence what you think of the taste.

“[It]doesn’t matter what wine we put in the glass, if we mix and match the labels and the wine, so long as you identify with those visual cues you will think the wine taste better,” Esau said.
Wine label study
Wine label study

WATCH ABOVE: Extended interview with Darcen Esau on wine label influence.
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Esau said that when consumers walk into a liquor store with hundreds or thousands of choices, they look for a wine that matches their image, just like they do with cars or clothes.

“What I discovered is as consumers, we are all identity-seekers, so we are navigating the marketplace looking for symbols that we can personally identify with,” Esau said, “and this helps create the image that either we are or would like to convey to other people.

“When people identify with those visual cues on the label there is this sensory association where those visual sensory cues become systematically associated with the way we taste the wine.”

It’s a finding that doesn’t surprise Develyn Barker who works a sales and marketing coordinator for a Kelowna liquor store.

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“Certain things can have a perceived value,” Barker said. “If you look at French wines, they might have an image of a chateau on the label that automatically, subconsciously in your brain, will make you think ‘Oh, this is fancy.’

“I’m glad somebody is doing the research on it.”

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Barker said labels do play a role when the store is deciding what to stock.

For wineries, the research means they may want to consider marketing under multiple labels to appeal to different segments of the population.

“We see that with a lot of wineries, they will have multiple brands under the same company and that’s exactly what they are doing — they are trying to appeal to the most people,” Esau said.

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For wine drinkers, Esau’s advice is to drink what you like.

“If it is the label that is driving you to like that wine better, all the power to you,” he said.

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