by Scott Greenberg | WTOP

WASHINGTON – A fellow wine enthusiast posted the following question to a group of journalists on social media: When wine consumers are determining quality in wine, what do you think they’re looking for?

I jokingly replied, A second date… or at least I thought it was a joke. It turns out that it struck a nerve. It turns out that it is far more complicated than just finding a decent bottle of wine at a good price.

Most day-to-day wine consumers are influenced by several different factors. And some of those factors are even gender biased.

According to a 2010 study by Paul Rickett, a sales and marketing consultant based in Canada, the biggest influences in buying wine in retail shops, are those that come from trusted people (i.e. store staff who have established an ongoing, successful recommendation history with a customer) or tangible signage/labeling.

Rickett takes his observations one step further by extending trust to include crowdsourcing through social media. He says, If it’s all about trust, then the expansion of ones circle of trusted friends via social media [will become] an ever-growing and significant factor in wine buying as trusted individuals spread their experience over a widening network.

Some of the more interesting key findings that Mr. Rickett discovered are:

  • Women are more likely than men to be influenced by bottle labels (animal labels sell wine)
  • People over 40 rely more on trusted store staff
  • Low-quantity buyers are much more influenced by bottle labels than are higher-quantity buyers
  • The higher the price point at which a wine buyer shops, the stronger the influence of external sources, such as press and bloggers becomes
  • Social media users are more likely to be influenced by external sources such as press and bloggers than those not using social media. However trusted staff are still the most important source of influence for this group.

But back to my off-the-cuff remark: It turns out that most consumers purchase a bottle of wine to share with someone. So at some level, many of us have a smidge of our own ego wrapped up in the wine selection process. In other words, we want the person or people with who we plan on sharing the wine to actually like the wine we bought.

And if the person your sharing it with is actually a significant relationship, then the pressure to pick a good wine is significantly higher. (I can tell you from experience after being married for more than 30 years, there is still a decent amount of pressure to get it right.)

Therefore, the idea of picking a wine good enough to get a second date (or third, fourth and so on) is actually a legitimate factor.

In the end, when you do get it right, there is something remarkably satisfying with being known as the person who picked the right wine.

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