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Can Wine Labels Ruin A Restaurant Meal?

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Can wine labels ruin a restaurant meal? You bet! The label on a wine goes a long way in deciding if you enjoyed your meal well and if you will re-visit the restaurant that does not carry the best wine or your favourite wine from a popular brand. Read on to know more!


It has been observed that people judge their meal as a fine or an average one after reading wine labels in restaurants. The judgement is based on the popularity and the familiarity with the wine labels. 


This observation has been verified by a study conducted by the Cornell University at the Spice Box restaurant located in Urbana, Illinois. Changing the label of a cheaply available local wines to a more familiar and expensive brand changed the opinions of quite a few diners about their meal. The label on the wine also decided the overall dining experience and also ensured re-visits at the restaurant.


Forty one diners at the Spice Box restaurant, Illinois were offered a free glass of wine named Cabernet Sauvignon, as an accompanying drink to their $24 French meal. The label of the wine bottle offered to half of the 41 diners was changed to Noah’s Winery, located in California and the other half was changed to Noah’s winery located in North Dakota. In both of these cases, the wine that was really served was an inexpensive Charles Shaw wine. One half of the 41 diners who were under the impression that they were drinking the wine from the renowned Noah’s winery, California, said that their meal tasted better and this lot of people ate 11% more of their meal. These diners also showed an inclination towards making future reservations at the restaurant.


The results of the study showed that judging a meal as good or bad after reading wine labels in restaurants, is due to the expectations of the diner.  If a diner recognises a familiar and popular wine brand, chances are that he would enjoy the meal, as expensive and exclusive wines are meant to be good in taste.  According to Cornell University professor, Brian Wansink,” Wine labels can throw both a halo or a shadow over the entire dining experience".


To confirm the above statement, a similar study was conducted with 49 MBA students at a cheese and wine reception. As in the previous case, students rated the wine labelled to be from California 85% higher and the cheese to be 50% better in taste.


It is important for the wineries and restaurants to have a clear idea about the wine labels and the possible effect of wine labels on the diners, who judge a wine by reading wine labels in restaurants. Diners should also be well informed and should be careful to ensure that they do not overpay for a pretty and expensive looking wine bottle which may indeed be a cheaper brand of wine. 


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Can Wine Labels Ruin A Restaurant Meal?