Wine Psychology: How to make your wine taste better than it really does


It’s Friday and I’m a scientist, so I thought I’d share another interesting Science Friday podcast I heard recently about the psychology behind wine. It focuses on the ritualistic nature of drinking wine and how it just seems more special than drinking other drinks.

Specifically, there’s more of a process to it, from tasting a bottle at a restaurant before passing it around the table to allowing a red to breathe before drinking it. There’s just something about wine that encourages you to take a little more time to appreciate what you’re drinking.

(I should say that wine is not unique in this anymore, although it arguably has the longest history of this kind of ritualistic treatment of any beverage I know of. My roommate recently introduced me to the concept of “Third Wave coffee,” which has much the same sense of respect for the process of making and imbibing in coffee as is more commonly done with wine.)

Thanks to the additional pomp, it’s possible to take advantage of psychology to trick your guests (and maybe yourself) into believing your wine tastes better than it does. Here are some tips recommended in the Science Friday show.

1. Hand your guest the bottle and let them look at it. This adds a little more drama and gravity to the situation. Not just any bottle of wine is worth looking at so closely.

2. Pour the wine, swirl it around, look at the legs, and describe what you see to your guests. This one is, again, all about adding an element of drama to the presentation of your wine. It forces everyone to slow down a bit and take the time to experience the wine and in the process to appreciate it more.

3. Give the wine some context: tell a story about it, share something about its origins, or just come up with anything interesting about the wine that makes the experience of drinking it more memorable. I think my family already gets this one. It’s not uncommon for a shared bottle of wine to come out with a story behind where it was bought or why it was bought or a memory about some other time it was enjoyed.

Note: Discussing the price of a wine might not be good manners, but a study was conducted in which different participants were told the same bottle of wine cost one of five different prices. Below is part of a figure from that paper. The study found that wines which were perceived to be more expensive were enjoyed significantly more. Remember that the study participants were all drinking the same wine, they had just been told that the price of that wine was different in each case.wine-price-perception-study

So maybe it’s not a bad idea to pick up that $6 bottle. Just give the presentation a little more thought and it could seem like you spent $90!

Here’s the original Science Friday broadcast again if you want to take a listen first-hand.

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5 thoughts on “Wine Psychology: How to make your wine taste better than it really does

  1. Let’s try it out next time we’re all together. Oh, wait, we already do that.
    Another beverage that has gained a certain amount of cachet and ritual the last few years is beer. Yep, beer.

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  2. I’m all for adding drama to wine. The test they gave was very interesting, considering they all thought each wine was a different price. Wait—the sun should be over the yardarm, if we had any sun (which we don’t), so I can test this theory myself.

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  3. Can’t wait to try some of the suggestions. I usually listen to Science Friday but I missed this one. Well…I have to go, my host is passing me a bottle of wine to look at!

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