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Winning wine

When PhD student Rosemarie Neuninger (Marketing) purchased 28 bottles of Central Otago pinot noir from a Dunedin supermarket it may have been one of the rare occasions on which someone claiming they were buying wine for “research purposes” wasn't using a euphemism.

Neuninger is investigating the role of awards in consumer decision-making and opted to case-study wine awards, using one of the most recently introduced grape varieties in New Zealand.

“I wanted to understand the influence of wine awards on consumers' perceptions of wine quality,” she says.

First, she set up focus groups to explore how awards are perceived among different consumers. The 44 participants ranged from students to expert wine writers, and members of wine groups and wine associations.

One of the things she found in the focus groups was a sophisticated consumer palate when it came to the integrity of wine awards.

“Consumers were really sceptical in terms of a lack of trust in the awarding process, who the judges are and the lack of transparency in some of the awards, although they still took note of awards, despite their scepticism.

“After that, I conducted a blind-versus-informed-condition experiment using students who were taking a Summer School wine business and tourism paper.

“I basically concluded that consumers were influenced by the type of wine award, scoring wine higher when they could see the wine had a well-known award.”

Neuninger is still writing up her thesis, but has already prepared several articles for publication and presented her work at international conferences.

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