The reasons why a customer might choose one bottle of wine over another are many and various. Whether it’s a recommendation, the knowledge of a good grape, cost or merely just an appealing label, winemakers need to understand the science of marketing.
Senior Research Associate Simone Mueller at the University of South Australia’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, says there is a growing demand for more research into consumers’ choices on wine and the ability of this information to predict market success.
“Historically the wine industry only looked at growing grapes and making good wine. Similar investment is required for the next step - matching expectations by consumers and distributing and selling the wine,” Mueller says.
“There are now tools and methods that can help the wine business to test their wines and wine packaging, to optimise it before aiming for a shelf listing.”
Mueller and colleagues at the Geisenheim Research Centre in Germany, analysed the influence of sensory and extrinsic wine attributes on likeability and purchase intent for 521 regular wine consumers. The first stage of the study required participants to indicate their liking of a wine in a blind tasting. The same wine was then presented in three bottles with different packaging designs and brand and origin labels. The participants indicated their liking of each wine based on the extrinsic attributes, before tasting the wine and indicating their purchase intent and liking again. In the latter stage, the participants were unaware they had tasted the same wine repeatedly.
The results of the study are surprising.
While both taste and extrinsic attributes influenced a consumer’s liking for a bottle of wine, packaging and brand were the biggest influences.
“Some French studies we cite go as far as to say that for wine and especially sparkling wine, 70 per cent of liking can be attributed to the expectation created by packaging and labelling information,” Mueller says.
While the study shows extrinsic attributes such as packaging can play a more significant role in determining consumers’ liking of wine than taste, Mueller says the best advice for food and beverage producers is to ensure taste and packaging are equally as good.
“When successful commercial wines are used, the effect of packaging and labelling is larger than in the case of wines with potential faults,” she says. “[In the latter case], the sensory undesirable characteristics are stronger and can often less easily be compensated by packaging and labelling.
“When explaining our work to practitioners, we mainly say that a 50:50 importance is a good approximation of the relative importance [of taste and extrinsic attributes].”
A nice price
In another study, Mueller and colleagues at the Australian Wine Research Institute found the price of wine to have a significant influence on consumers’ repurchase intent. In the first stage of the study, participants chose one of 21 Australian vintage Shiraz wines based on the extrinsic attributes of each wine. This included packaging, price and brand. Participants then tasted the wine while aware of its retail price, before deciding whether or not they would repurchase the wine.
Mueller and colleagues found that a combination of extrinsic attributes, taste and price, positively influenced purchase intent. Also, the more often a wine was chosen in the first stage of the study, the more likely participants were to repurchase the wine after tasting it.
According to Mueller, the colour of packaging can say a lot about the value of a wine. Plain colours such as black, grey and cream have been associated with higher valued wines in the past, whilst more colourful packaging have been associated with wines of lower value.
The heart of fine wine
Despite the importance of reasonable prices and attractive packaging, no wine is good wine if it doesn’t taste good, says winemaker Scott Hazeldine who has been in the business for the past ten years (the latter two with Schild Estate in the Barossa Valley).
According to Hazeldine, the key to making good wine begins in the vineyard.
“There’s an old adage, that good wine is made in the vineyard – and I think that probably rings true,” he says. “In terms of the results of the wine that goes into bottles, a lot of it is determined on what’s done in the vineyard and the quality of the grapes.”
Hazeldine knows what he’s talking about: after all, he helped make Schild Estate’s 2008 Barossa Shiraz an international success last year after US magazine, Wine Spectator, labelled the wine as the seventh best in the world.
“If you’ve got good grapes coming in the door; half the work is already done,” Hazeldine says. However, taste is only the first hurdle for a wine business, says Hazeldine. The commercial considerations are becoming more and more important.
“Taste is first and foremost in what we’re trying to achieve, however, that’s only one small component; packaging and price are equally as important,” he says.
“There’s a lot of good wine out there that doesn’t sell because it’s at the wrong price or the packaging is bad.”
Top factors that influence consumers’ liking of wine:
1. Packaging (46%)
2. Brand (27%)
3. Sensory attributes/taste
4. Grape variety
5. Wine region
Top factors that influence consumers’ purchase intent:
1. Informed liking (a combination of sensory and extrinsic attributes) (77%)
2. Price (21%)
Note: the influence of packaging, wine region, sensory attributes/taste, grape variety and brand were less than 1% each.