Last week in the Putnam Market Wine Room, several cases of merlot and cabernet sauvignon were delivered from the same wine producer—but they arrived in different bottles. One was a little taller and made with thicker glass, while the other, not so much. I weighed the two bottles: The bottle of merlot weighed in at 2.76 lbs and the cabernet sauvignon, at 3.10 lbs.
It seems reasonable to assume that by using two separate weights of wine bottles, the producer would be adding some complexity and cost to its bottling process. One might also assume that there’s a return on investment here, and there is: Consumers actually associate a heavy bottle with higher quality wine.
Professor Charles Spence, in the experimental psychology department at the University of Oxford, says that lightness is associated with cheapness, and even the most expensive wines will give their drinkers less pleasure if they’re served from a plastic container. Speaking at a science festival in the West of England, Professor Spence said: “If you want your guests to enjoy their gin and tonics, then make sure they have a heavy glass. The psychological effect means it tastes significantly better. Lightness is associated with flimsiness, poor quality and cheapness. People feel it is more disposable. People will tend to go for the heavier bottle, as they think it will taste better.”
What about beer? “If you drink beer out of a bottle, it tastes better than from a can,” says Spence. “That is because it is heavier in the hand, and people associate it with higher quality. But if you poured the beer from the bottle and the can into identical glasses, people would say it tastes the same.”
To sum things up, if you want your guests to enjoy themselves as much as possible, serve all drinks in the heaviest glasses you own, and if you’ve bought wine in a heavy bottle, let your guests hold it before you serve its contents. At least psychologically speaking, you’ll be the host of the year.