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Researchers make progress in finding how wines make drinkers feel

By RJ Whitehead , 28-Aug-2014

Researchers make progress in finding how wines make drinkers feel

Australia’s wine industry needs to turn to the perfume industry to learn how wines affect a consumer’s emotions, according to a researcher from Adelaide. 

The team is currently in the process of looking at the links between wine, where it is consumed and the emotions felt after a tipple to gain a deeper consumer insight into wine preferences.

Wine emotional scale

The trial is looking at how 360 drinkers sample specific wines in different environments, and rates their emotional response on a specially devised “wine emotion scale”.

There has been a lot of work done on sensory analysis of wine so we now have a very good idea of what consumers like about wine,” said project leader Dr Sue Bastian, senior lecturer in oenology and sensory studies at Adelaide University.

But just knowing what flavours consumers like and don’t like is not enough. We need to learn from the food and perfume industries and understand how wines affect our emotion, and the role emotions play in influencing what we choose to drink at certain occasions and how emotions affect our purchasing decisions.”

Eighteen months into the trial, so far the researchers have helped identify four distinct quality levels  out of 100 Australian shiraz wines. Consumer focus groups were then used to validate a wine emotion scale, and a trained tasting panel compiled detailed sensory profiles of 40 of the 100 wines, chosen as distinct examples of their quality groups.

Twelve wines were finally selected to make three flights of four wines—or one from each quality group—for random allocation to the trial participants.

The participants then blind tasted four wines in three different settings, one a restaurant, another at home and in the sensory laboratory. They rated 19 different emotions the wines may have prompted, ranging from warm-hearted or nostalgic through to tense or irritated on a scale of 1-9—not at all to extremely.

Positive and negative characteristics

There are characters in wines which may generate negative emotion; but we also want to understand what it is about wine which drives positive emotion,” said Dr Bastian.

We are also looking at how the wine setting, for example drinking in a restaurant as opposed to home, impacts the emotions that are stimulated as well as how the consumers like the wines and their perceptions of wine quality and the price they are prepared to pay.

And we’re investigating how consumer research lab results compare to those from more natural settings of home and restaurant to see if lab data can successfully predict consumer decisions compared to using more representative places and measures of consumer behaviour.

Ultimately we want to have a clear understanding of our emotional response to wines and help the Australian wine industry, worth over A$2.4bn domestically, utilise this knowledge in its product development, differentiation and marketing.”

The project has an international collaboration with Dr Herb Meiselman, a pioneer of emotions research, and is funded by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority.