New research into wine drinking attitudes

Waverley Wine and Spirits Group have recently conducted some research into wine drinking habits and attitudes amongst British wine drinkers. The survey was conducted with over 3,500 people, including members of the wine and spirits trades and consumer groups in restaurants, pubs, clubs, supermarkets and off-licences.

The research looked at the social occasions on which we drink wine, why we drink wine, and what we look for when choosing a wine. As part of the research, wine drinkers have been categorised into six ‘typical’ consumer profiles as detailed below

Also take a look at wine-pages visitors’ reactions to the survey from around the world (there’s another link at the bottom of the page)

The Entertainers
x‘We didn’t really start drinking wine until about seven years ago. Having kids changes the way you drink, as you are obviously going out less. We love having friends round to try out new wines and most evenings we’ll open a bottle with our meal. We’ll try just about anything, especially if it’s on promotion!’

wine preferences: South Africa, Australia, Chile, Italy

The Adventurer
x‘I could never be a wine snob. Life’s too short for that kind of seriousness. Wine is to be enjoyed, not studied. Sure, I know the difference between a Californian merlot and a New Zealand pinot noir but so what? If it tastes good, drink it. Half the fun is trying out new wines. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I say.’

wine preferences: Australia, California, Chile

The Easily Pleased
x‘I’ve never had any pretensions about wine. I guess I tend to stick with ones that I know. Labels don’ t impress me much. Just give me a bottle of something decent and inexpensive, sit me down at the kitchen table for a good chat with a friend or two and I’m perfectly happy.’

wine preferences: Liebfraumilch, medium French vin de pays

The Chardonnay Girl
x‘It’s a social thing. You know, the girls and a good night out, what could be more fun? Yes, we drink wine during the night, it doesn’t fill you up like beer. I’ ve got a few favourites but I’m not fussy and most places these days have a reasonable choice of wine.’

wine preferences: Australia, New World

The Classic Connoisseur
x‘Good wine should be slowly savoured and appreciated, not guzzled down like fizzy pop. I’m sure plonk is all very well for some people, but you won’t catch me drinking it. I like to know exactly what I’m drinking and where it’s from. A fine vintage is always worth paying for, and it won’t give you a sore head the next day!’

wine preferences: French wine, quality Bordeaux, Burgundy

The Enthusiast
x‘I suppose I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to wine. These new world varieties just aren’ t my style. For me, it has to be french, it has to be a well-established name and most importantly, it has to be quality. Of course it’s going to be more expensive, but then good quality always is.’

wine preferences: Rhône, Loire, Rioja

The survey went on to plot the types of drinker, their attitude to wine and the occasions on which they drink wine against a grid that spanned traditional to modern attitudes, and mass-market to premium qualities…

…so young drinkers on a big night out are likely to drink mass-market wines, made in a modern style; whereas couples in a restaurant drink premium wines in traditional settings.

The six person types identified above where then plotted on this grid…
…showing that Chardonnay Girls for example, fall right in the middle of wine quality, but strongly favour modern settings; whereas Classic Connoisseurs will drink premium wines in traditional settings.

The current position of wine on the mass/premium and traditional/modern grid was then plotted against other alcoholic drinks…
…so wine is seen as more upmarket than pints of lager, but less trendy than vodka for example.

and survey participants were asked where they would place wines from different New World and Old World regions on the grid…
…so that Australian wine, for example, was seen as ultra-modern, but firmly mass-market; whereas French wine is seen as very traditional, but the most ‘premium’ of all.

The attitudes of those surveyed were summarised as:

Away from the Old World
“snobbish, unwelcoming, set in their ways, expensive”

Towards the New World
“honest, down to earth, associated with freshness, energy & growth, accessible, relaxed”

So there appears to be good and bad news for all wine producing nations in the survey, though the overall trend that wine is not penetrating the mass-market of drinkers, and is not seen as particularly modern is worrying.

Responses from wine-pages visitors

Elizabeth Tyndall, UK
I work in a wine shop (Bottoms Up) and can pretty much confirm what Nick Alabaster says below about most wine drinkers. There are quite a lot of knowledgeable wine drinkers though, which makes my job more enjoyable. As for me, well I’m a wine nut. Started about 11 years ago, worked my way up to drinking some seriously classy and expensive wine, mostly French, then as my circumstances changed I had to look at cheaper ranges. Now I’ve discovered just how much great stuff is out there – from Spain, Chile and New Zealand mostly. I rarely drink French wine now – better value for my money elsewhere. Oh, and I drink real ale and malt whisky.

Karen Douglas, UK
If I could substitute Alsace for the Loire I could be classed as and enthusiast, so enthusiastic that I am giving up the day job to study viticulture and vinification at Plumpton College. I would not dismiss New World wines, but would rather spend money on a Cote Rotie than a premium Shiraz. When I start a wine course I always start with a tasting of NZ Sauvignon and Oz Shiraz, it captures the audience and they come back for more, but at the end of the course I ask them which wine was their most memorable and it will almost always be a Classic like Tokaji or a mature Chianti. The lessons least popular before they take place are the German and Eastern European, but with careful choice and without breaking the bank can be some of the most enjoyable and inspire people to re-evaluate these areas. As far as New World wines been Honest, I think the mass brands are some of the least honest wines around with the added acid, added oak flavours and labels with open vistas or breaking surf, when the wine has been made in tank farms visible from space. Also I have a grudge against manipulated wines that give me a hang over after one glass!

David Pearce, UK
I am sure that the test was done in a very scientific manner, but I seem to straddle across three types – Enthusiast, Classic Connosieur and Adventurous. Obviously being in the trade I am not an average person as I try to look for quality irespective of the country of origin and am hopefully aware of the top wines. Therefore I appreciate the fine wines of Germany and Chile as much as those of France. I find it interesting that people perceived the USA as more premium that Italy. Is this because we don’t see lots of it on our supermarket shelves and consumers are unaware that wineries such as Gallo are American? Although Australia is mass market it is a shame that the average consumer does not know the wines beyond the supermarket shelf which are represented by the 4 main brands. Another major contributing factor is the history of wine making that France is steeped in. People perceive it to be fine and expensive and this is what they have been taught in their youth, although most have never even seen a bottle of classed growth claret or grand cru Burgundy. On the basis of production levels in Australia compared to France and the market share Australia has over here, I would say that although it mass market the general QPR is far higher and therefore Australia should be classed as being more premium.

Peter Ruhrberg, Germany
It looks like I’m hard to locate on those grids, but I surely know where I am not: at the right top corner where the big trend is pointing to: modern, new world, honest, relaxed, mass market wine drinker. That leaves me basically as an enthusiast (not that much Rioja though) who strangely adores red Burgundy, and is easily pleased for his cellar is mostly filled with German wine. Luckily, Waverley wine & spirits group don’t have to survive on types like me.

Paula Sindberg, UK, originally California
I’m female; 49 years old and a native Californian. I started drinking before I was old enough to legally because I was working as a chef and had to plan the wines to accompany my dinners. I started at the top of the wine quality chain and never saw a reason to go down. I’m a serious wine drinker but for quality, not volume. I don’t drink bad wines (whether that’s plonk or just bad wines) if it can be avoided. I don’t quaff (wine should be savoured). I only drink grape products (wine, sherry, cognac, armenanc) and a few (largely Italian) digestives (and the odd bit of water, just because you should). My favourite wines are Italian (I share a house in Piemonte) but I also drink a lot of New Zealand, Oregon, California, and Spanish wines and very little French. Of the French wines, while I like really fine Burgundies and some great Bordeaux, I mainly buy Rhones and some central France – Bergerac, Pecharmant, Cahors – and not much of that.
I mainly drink with friends over a gourmet meal – whether at a restaurant or at home although one of my favourite things is to open a fantastic bottle of wine and either (a) in winter sit in my favourite chair listening to wonderful music while savouring the wine or (b) in summer sit on my balcony, watch the Thames flow by and savour the wine. I don’t buy “names” per se and avoid a lot of the old standbys because I don’t think that you regularly get value for money. But I’m willing to spend for wine. Probably my average bottle cost is £15-20, perhaps more. Life is too short to drink bad wine.
So what kind of drinker am I?

Yixin Ong, UK/Singapore
I know what sort I am – ponce! (right at the bottom left corner) 😉 Even worse, I drink lots of ale and whisky. Oh of course all my wine drinking is conducted amidst a cloud of mystifying pretension with rituals like actually handwashing glasses, fretting about having the right cheese at the right stage of ripeness and keeping tasting notes. All that fancy schmancy rubbish I go through, I can’t be drinking sub-tenner wines on a regular basis… It does make me wonder how ‘out of touch’ geeks (the least offensive term I can think of, instead of that ‘enthusiast’ label) actually are with the mass market, and surveys like this only drive the point home. Interesting, of course, but at the same time open to the usual charges against generalisations of what is a remarkably diverse subject.

Nick Alabaster, UK
I know wine nuts are not representative, but most realise that the general wine drinking population:
a) Think cheaper the better (hence Gluckism works for some)
b) Don’t know sediment in vintage port isn’t a fault
c) Don’t know TCA from TLC
d) Don’t know wine can be off or corked; just that they like some, not others
e) Often drink corked wines indifferently (as with all wines in general!)
f) Don’t return wine that’s clearly spoilt (i.e. extension of point e)
g) Are made to feel awkward in restaurants
h) Unknowingly get striped up in restaurants
i) Actually drink pub wine (!!!!!)
j) Wouldn’t give the World’s most respected wines the time of day
What else have I missed….??!!