Wine economics research

May 16, 2024 •

7 min reading

Spotlight on wine economics with the EHL experts

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Welcome to the regular Q&A feature where we shine the spotlight on our EHL research faculty and their current work. With a view to going behind the scenes to better understand the fascinating, impactful world of research, the EHL Institutional Visibility team will be regularly catching up with an EHL researcher whose work is making a difference in both the classroom and industry.

Inseparable researchers Dr. Jean-Philippe Weisskopf and Dr. Philippe Masset, Associate Professors of Finance at EHL Hospitality Business School, have dedicated their careers to researching wine economics and disseminating their vast knowledge to their students. As they prepare to show the world the wonders of Swiss wine, EHL’s Institutional Visibility team sat down with the pair to discuss how they met and why they collaborate so often, their current avenues of research, and the 16th Annual Conference of the American Association of Wine Economists, which is being held on EHL Campus Lausanne, Switzerland, in July.

The two professors began collaborating back when they were finance students in college. In the years since, they have published numerous academic research papers together, led associations in the field of wine economics and participated in countless conferences. Over the span of their careers, they have forged themselves a reputation as thought leaders in wine economics.


When did you start publishing together?

PM: There were only a few of us from French-speaking Switzerland in the doctoral program at the University of Fribourg, and even fewer of us who didn’t want to eat bland food in the cafeteria. Thus, we were kind of on our own and made a rule to eat out at least once a week. We tested all of the lunch specials in Fribourg’s bistros. I’m from Fribourg and it’s a fabulous town for eating and drinking, but better known for Gruyère cheese and beer than its wine. Over a good meal, you can slow down and get to know people better, and generate ideas. You’re always a bit wiser after a good meal with good friends! So I guess it makes sense that we both wound up at a hospitality school!

JPW: I’m half Austrian and half Belgian but my family moved to Fribourg in 2000, when I started at the University of Fribourg. I didn’t really drink wine before meeting Philippe, my family brewed its own beer, so I preferred beer to wine but Philippe changed my mind…for the better!


Why did you start researching the wine industry?

PM: I was sick of my finance thesis and wanted to do something else. I had a bunch of data about wine auctions so I co-published an article with Caroline Henderson, an art historian interested in fine wines. A year and a half later, Jean-Philippe and I published a paper. I liked wine and had the skills to analyze the data on wine auctions. That’s how I made my entry into the wine network, which is a lot more fun than hardcore finance.


Was your wine research taken seriously?

JPW: It hasn’t always been easy. And wine research isn’t always considered ‘real research’. But the wine industry is a big, multi-billion dollar industry. And the research questions are really interesting with broad implications.

PM: In Western societies, wine is a powerful driver that brings people together. Every time I run into a former student, they always say the same thing: “Thank goodness you were interested in this topic.”

I am not always comfortable at big events or conferences. I’m not a fan of people who are just there to network, show off, etc. But wine always makes for a good topic of conversation. You find other people interested in wine, you talk about your vacation, wine you drank there, and other issues and, in the end, you enjoy a pleasant evening. Wine is an effective ice breaker and social link. Wine has salvaged so many stultifying evenings for me!

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What is in your research pipeline?

JPW: We’ve got several but one we could discuss is entitled “To share or not to share: An analysis of wine list disclosure by Swiss restaurant owners”. Its main idea is to see if the wine lists of restaurants featured in the Swiss edition of the Gault&Millau are available online. Are certain types of Swiss restaurants more inclined than others to post their wine list on the Internet ? We looked by type of food, quality level of restaurant, the linguistic region and other factors. Then there’s the question of competitors. If your wine list is on your restaurant’s website everyone can see it, sometimes the prices are even listed.

PM: Your competition can see everything.

JPW: This would be of particular interest to your competitors because they can copy you, see with which producers you work. Let’s say you’ve spent months to find a small wine producer and have established a good relationship with them. Obviously, you might be reticent to share this kind of information with your competitor. So the question might seem prosaic but it’s more complex than it looks and is applicable to other industries, as well.

PM: And the prices! Some restaurants buy directly from prestigious domains in Burgundy and so the price is much lower than on the secondary market. And some restaurants want to attract real connoisseurs and not just people who are there to sip wines with fancy labels.


Is F&B too narrow of a topic for research?

JPW: There are tens of thousands of restaurants in Switzerland alone but hardly any research being done on topics that affect them. We think it’s a topic worth exploring.

PM: Food and Beverage is an economic heavyweight that employs millions the world over. That’s why we, and other universities, launched the Alliance for Research on Wine & Hospitality Management (ARWHM), which was founded by professors from five universities (EHL, Kedge BS Bordeaux, Cornell University, Free University of Bolzano in Italy, and Hong Kong Polytechnic) to promote wine research. The problem is the lack of data, as most restaurants are private entities that don’t release their stats publicly.


Let’s discuss this summer's conference: American Association of Wine Economists Conference 2024

JPW: We’re just tying up the loose ends but most of the details have been nailed down. The week-long academic event, organized by American Association of Wine Economists and EHL, will allow us to exchange with academics from all over the world on the latest research on wine economics. We’ll be able to shine the spotlight on the best Swiss wines. It starts with a welcome reception on Monday. Tuesday evening, we’re going to the Olympic Museum here in Lausanne for a dinner featuring wines from the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. Wednesday there will be a gala dinner at EHL with wines from the German-speaking regions of Switzerland. Thursday we’ll visit the breathtaking Lavaux vineyards, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Friday we’ll discover the vineyards of the neighboring Valais canton. So the goal is to show what’s going on in this country.


Will participants already have some knowledge of Swiss wines?

JPW: Given that only around 2% of Swiss wine is exported, I doubt they’ll know much – unless some of them have visited the country while on vacation.

PM: There are a lot of wine drinkers around the world who don’t even know that Switzerland produces wine.

JPW: We’re going to show them quintessential Swiss wines, which are all about small producers, lots of different grape varietals and, of course, the terraced vineyards.


Will participants be shown the breathtaking vineyard scenery?

JPW: That’s the goal! We’re going to show them the sites, which are pretty spectacular. It’s not the only wine region in the world with incredible landscapes but it’s undoubtedly one of the most stunning. We’re going to divide up the 150 participants into several different buses to visit the wineries. The winding roads of the Lavaux area, in particular, are not well-suited to large groups. We're even going to take the Lavaux Express, a tiny tourist train!


What about the academic side of the conference?

PM: There will be around 80 presentations lasting about 15 minutes each. We’re finally getting back to a relatively big event. It should be the biggest since Covid. Internationally-renowned wine economists will be in attendance and it’s also a forum for exchanging ideas. It only makes sense to study and research wine if you know the product, if you’re able to put it into context. Of course, you can look at it from a purely economic standpoint but the reach and the quality of your research will be limited. So it’s important to be rooted in practical aspects, which is why wine economists go to these conferences in the first place. In 2022, the conference was held in the Georgia so we could discover the birthplace, alongside Armenia, of wine.


Will the conference also be a showcase for EHL?

PM: It’s one of the biggest conferences the school has ever hosted, in terms of the number of participants, there are some very high level people coming.

JPW: I think the conference is recognition of EHL’s stature and fits perfectly with its DNA.

PM: For these conferences to take place in a given location, there must be a local community of wine researchers. I think the fact that Jean-Philippe and I are involved is important. We’re both part of the European Association of Wine Economists. Jean-Philippe is a member of the scientific committee and I’m a member of its board and the president of the ARWHM. This also recognizes the good work going on at Changins. Alexandre Mondoux, along with some of his colleagues and students, will contribute to the conference. HEG Geneva has also developed a solid expertise in the field. In particular, Nicolas Depetris has just launched the Global Wine Business Institute, which connects researchers from all over the world. This conference acknowledges what is happening in French-speaking Switzerland and is a mark of EHL’s and HES-SO’s credibility in this domain.


philippe_masset_authorDr. Philippe Masset holds a Ph.D. from the University of Fribourg (2012). His research areas are Empirical Finance, Alternative Investments, Wine Economics, Hospitality Financial Management and Hotel Real-Estate Investments. He has been visiting professor at the University of Bordeaux and he is member of several academic associations including the American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE), Bordeaux Wine Economics (BWE), and a member of the Board of the European Association of Wine Economists (EuAWE).

More article by Dr. Masset

professor-weisskopf-jean-philippeJean-Philippe, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Finance at EHL (EHL) and Visiting Professor at the University of Fribourg (CH). He holds a PhD from the University of Fribourg (CH) and has had working experience in Private Banking in Switzerland. His research interests focus on empirical corporate finance, family owned businesses and wine economics. He is a founding member of the Alliance for Research on Wine & Hospitality Management and Bordeaux Wine Economics. He has published in top-ranked peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Banking & Finance, the Journal of Corporate Finance, Applied Economics or the Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money.

More article by Dr. Weisskopf