The ‘Pricing Effect’ Explains Why Your Brain Truly Enjoys Expensive Wine More Than Cheap Wine

wine vineyard

Kym Ellis / Unsplash


Brains are tricky. They want to believe the sensory information that’s fed into them. If someone tells them X is better than Y then they expect that to be true. If A is more expensive than B then the brain is primed to believe that A better, in general.

This is particularly true when it comes to tasting wines. The only way to truly know what kind of wine you enjoy the most is to conduct a blind taste test. Why? Because the price tag on a bottle of wine completely changes the drinker’s perception of that wine.

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Even when the exact same wine is poured into two bottles and given two different price tags (cheap and expensive) the brain truly believes the expensive wine is better. They’ve proven this by mapping the pleasure centers of the brain which exhibit more activity when someone thinks a wine is more expensive.

Adam Grant is a Professor of Management and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and here he explains how the Pricing Effect tricks our brains into thinking that more expensive is better. And while it’s the price tag that’s tricking our brains, we genuinely do enjoy expensive wines more.

How do you circumvent the price tag and figure out which wines your brain actually enjoys? Do a blind taste test at home with some friends. Everyone bring 3 or 4 bottles that are drastically different in price. Buy a $15 bottle, $25-30, and a $50+ bottle. Do a blind taste test with all the wines and you’ll be shocked to discover what you enjoy the most.

I did this not too long ago with a $60 bottle, $99 bottle, and $150 bottle only to find out that the $60 (Jordan) was my favorite ($150 second and $99 third). I went in 100% expecting to enjoy the $99 bottle the most because it’s a wine I know well, have drunk many times, and always enjoy. But the other two turned out to be a lot better in the blind taste test.

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