Consumers who use expert wine reviews to inform their purchase decisions are more likely to choose better wine than those who rely only on price as an indicator of quality, according to research.

The study‘Wine prices and quality ratings: a meta-regression analysis’, by Professor Eddie Oczkowski at the CSU School of Accounting and Finance and the Institute for Land Water and Society, and Professor Chris Doucouliagos from Deakin University, aimed to establish whether there is a strong empirical relationship between a wine’s price and its quality.

“We found although there was a correlation between the price of a wine and the expert ratings it received, consumers can’t rely on price alone as an indicator of quality,” Professor Oczkowski said.

“If you’re making a significant purchase of wine you’re not familiar with, if you’re buying a case of wine for example, you probably do need to access expert ratings from wine guides and use that information in conjunction with the price indicators.”

The research was a meta-analysis (a comparative study of all relevant previous studies) examining the relationship between wine price and sensory quality, and considered over 180 hedonic (pleasurable) wine price models from 36 studies developed over 20 years covering many countries.

The analysis identified there is a moderate link between the price of wine and its sensory quality rating.
“This correlation exists despite the lack of information consumers have about a wine’s quality, the disconnection between the taste preferences of experts and novice consumers, and the inconsistency of expert tasters when evaluating wines,” Professor Oczkowski said.

This suggests there are strategic buying opportunities for better informed consumers, and strategic price-setting possibilities may also exist for wine producers given the incomplete ‘quality information’ consumers have.

A significant implication from the analysis is the relative importance of a wine’s reputation over its sensory quality, implying producers need to sustain the sensory quality of a wine over time to sustain its reputation and maximise returns.

The research also affirmed the use of both the 100-point quality rating scale and studies that focus on single varieties/styles, as the two considered together probably reflect an improved ability to measure the quality of a wine.”A focus on a single variety or style mimics the typical show judging system where comparisons are made between wines of the same variety/style in awarding medals and prizes,” Professor Oczkowski said. “In other words, it appears easier to determine the quality of wine within a variety rather than across varieties. This better quality assessment may enhance price variations.”

The study, ‘Wine prices and quality ratings: a meta-regression analysis’, by Professor Eddie Oczkowski and Professor Chris Doucouliagos is published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (July 2014).