Wine List Economics: Familiarity Breeds Innovation

My new feature for The SOMM Journal reveals a surprising truth about a wine list’s mix.

Jon McDaniel (credit: Rebecca Peplinksi)

Jon McDaniel of LessLaw Hospitality, Chicago (credit: Rebecca Peplinksi)

Many wine lists are filled with blue-chip standards—Wente, Jordan, Cakebread, Far Niente, Veuve Yellow Label. Guests love these wines for their familiarity and reliability, and use their pricing to anchor expectations about the entire list’s value.

But wine directors like to encourage experimentation, too. How to find the right mix?

Ironically, research shows that the mere presence of these recognizable options seems to put guests at ease, which in turn makes them more receptive to outliers.

“A wine list full of obscurities may well have been developed to compel the diner to go outside of their comfort zone,” says Damien Wilson, Ph.D., chair of Wine Business at Sonoma State University, “but mainly encourages a ‘safe’ choice.”

Learn more in my latest feature for The SOMM Journal, It’s All in the Mix. Download a PDF or find it in the issue’s digital edition.

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