UK wine drinkers ‘in a rut’

UK consumers are more likely to ditch their partners than their favourite tipple, a new survey has found, suggesting the nation is in a wine rut.

Men drinking Champagne

A survey undertaken by The Co-op found that more than half of British wine drinkers – 52% – stick to their favourite wine for around ten years – longer than the length of many a relationship. However the survey showed this was more a case of ‘better the devil you know’ than true attachment to the brand or varietal per se. It found a fifth of Brits stick to a chosen grape out of fear of making a “wrong choice”, and only 10% admit to being experimental.

This compares unfavourable with people’s attitudes to being more adventurous with food, holiday and technology, the survey found.

It found the optimum age for being adventurous was the late 20’s and early thirties, once consumers had found their feet in wines, but before they settled into a pattern of buying a trusted favourite by the age of 36-40. It also revealed the ‘”wine journey” typical of most Brits, which showed people start with Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, before moving onto red wine including as Merlot or Rioja in their 20s, adding Pinot Grigio and Malbec to the repertoire in the 30s, and returning to Chardonnay and Sauvignon during the 40s, and Merlot over the age of 55.

The news will add fuel to the importance of wine producers and retailers to appeal to the key millennial audience, when consumers are at their most adventurous.

The survey also found the top five wines were Pinot Grigio (11%), Merlot (10%), Chardonnay (10%), Sauvignon Blanc (8%) and Rioja (7%), although there was a clear difference between the sexes, with Rioja becoming the number one choice for men.

However, it also found people were most likely to be influenced by their partner when it came to trying new wines (20%), three times more so than an advert or wine writer, and to do so at home (38%) rather than at a restaurant (19%) or friends’ house (10%).

Flavour expert Charles Spence explained that a person’s taste buds were in their prime in their 20s and 30s. “We are at the peak point between having learned about flavours and naming them and yet just before the senses start to decline,” he said.

However he said it was surprising that Brits were willing to experiment with what they put on our plates, but far less willing to try a new grape variety in our glass. “The reason being that we want to avoid disappointment. However, with so many talented producers out there and wine-making arguably in its prime, you’re far less likely to be disappointed – and much more likely to be pleasantly surprised! – than ever before.”

It also highlights the fear that still exists around wine.

Simon Cairns, category trading manager for beers, wines and spirits at The Co-op said it was easy to get stuck in a rut with relationships to wine, but there was a world of different wines to try.

The survey was carried out among 1,010 wine-drinking adults in the UK.

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