French are clueless about wine

3rd September, 2014 by Simon Howland

Seven out of 10 French people don’t know their Chablis from their Champagne according to a recent survey, a summation likely to ruffle a few feathers in a country known for its wine prowess.

Wine and France, maybe not as entwined as we though.

Wine and France, maybe not as entwined as we thought.

Wine is much more than just a tipple for the French, it’s officially part of the nation’s cultural heritage and part of how they perceive themselves and are in turn perceived by the rest of the world.

Furthermore, they recently went as far as to bestow national heritage status upon their wines and vines.

But according to a poll by ViaVoice on behalf of the magazine Terre des Vins (Wine Country) 71% of French admitted to not knowing much at all about their national drink.

When asked whether they considered themselves to be knowledgeable about wine 71% of those surveyed said “no” and of those, 43% admitted to knowing nothing at all.

26% of participants said they knew “enough” with only 3% saying they knew “a lot”.

ViaVoice also found a correlation between social class and wine knowledge with white collar workers being far more likely to know something about wine than their blue collar compatriots.

According ViaVoice: “It is primarily the social differences that structure the sense of wine knowledge.”

“Evidence indicates that a very elitist initiation to wine still exists in French society but also that a feeling, real or perceived, for many households with limited purchasing power that they cannot afford to buy quality wines,” said ViaVoice.

A majority of French agree that wine education and moderation are important for youngsters.

A majority of French agree that wine education and moderation are important for youngsters.

Terre de Vins said 51% of those surveyed supported an “introduction to wine and moderate consumption” for youths in response to what they see as irresponsible drinking behaviour abroad.

“Faced with the binge-drinking phenomenon and the massive exposure of youngsters to alcohol, wine, which is the mark of civilisation, constitutes a healthier and more cultured alternative,” added the magazine.

Speaking to the Guardian, Rodolphe Wartel, director of Terre de Vin said: “In general French people think the wine world is complicated because behind the taste there is a whole universe, a language, the land they fear expressing an opinion about it.”

“Our job is to show them that it is, in fact, quite simple.” Said Wartel.

“What surprised us most is that 51% of people thought youngsters should learn about wine through tastings at the age of 17 to combat binge-drinking.”

“As the legal age to drink [alcohol] is 18 this breaks something of a taboo.”

ViaVoice surveyed 1,015 adults between May 28 and 30 for the poll that was published in the Terre de Vins magazine on Tuesday.

6 Responses to “French are clueless about wine”

  1. Chloe Beral says:

    Nom d’une pipe !

  2. John McGeehan says:

    It’s not just the French. Vast majority of the public in this country don’t have a Scooby about wine either, nor do they have any inclination in wanting to learn either.

  3. David Boyer says:

    As Mr. McGeehan points out, France is probably about on par with the US, UK, and other countries of the world when it comes to wine knowledge, or even having an interest in wine beyond drinking it for the buzz.

    Also the sample size of the survey makes it statistically insignificant and its results are certainly not a reliable indicator of how many people know wine, or to what level of knowledge they may have.

    Sorry to say, but this is not news.

    David Boyer

  4. Your title, like much modern journalism, is misleading. I reckon over 90% of French adults know the difference between Chablis and Champagne. What the survey found was that 70% felt that they did not know that much about wine. That’s because they realise there is more to learn. Very different to the view in the UK where most people feel that they already know enough. The “I don’t know much but I know what I like” syndrome.

    • Chris Kassel says:

      Agreed, Jonathan; the headline itself is simply wrong. The article states that 43% of ‘French’ know nothing about wine, and hence could be labeled ‘clueless’. Last I checked, that’s a minority.

  5. Jean Dubern says:

    But then… after spending 5 years in the UK, I have met a vast majority of Brits thinking that Pinot Grigio is a red wine …. Pinot Noir? No, never heard of it! As long as the bottle is full and degree of alcohol is high. Why just having a glass while you can finish the whole bottle?

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