National Wine Drinkers Survey: The Results (Part II)

Following on from Part I yesterday, where we dealt with the ‘where’ and ‘how much’ of wine, Part II of our National Wine Drinkers Survey reveals the attitudes of Irish wine drinkers, on everything from alcohol levels and availability, to what you’d be prepared to go without to have a glass.

Questions 12 and 13: What’s your favourite alcoholic drink and what else do you drink?
Accepting again that this was a wine drinkers survey, we were still shocked (but pleasantly so!) at the findings on this one.
For a country normally associated with the pint of stout, not to mention a fine tradition of whiskey making, 80% of our survey respondents declared wine to be their drink of choice, with 1 in 7 drinking it exclusively. Only 13% of respondents would opt for a beer first, with cider (2%) and spirits (5%) a long way behind.
Predictably, there was some weighting towards female respondents, with almost 9 in 10 selecting wine over other drinks. Nevertheless, over 7 in 10 men still declared wine as their favourite, with only 1 in 4 choosing a beer first.
There was also a clear trend across age groups, with younger people showing the greatest spread across the different drinks groups. Still, whilst 1 in 6 of the 18-25s choose spirits as their favourite tipple, it was wine that once again came out on top with more than half putting it top of their list.
Finally, it was the Over 60s who showed the greatest love for the grape, with 100% declaring wine to be their favourite drink, with 3 in 10 drinking it exclusively.
Question 14: Do you prefer wine with food or on its own?
We all bring our own biases to surveys, and in particular predict results that reflect our own views or preferences. With our equal love of good food and good wine, and preferably together, this was one of our most pleasant surprises across the survey. Over three-quarters of respondents prefer to drink wine with food than without.
Along with frequency of consumption (Question 4), this is surely one of the strongest indicators that Ireland has developed a much more continental approach to drinking, where in countries like France, Spain and Italy, wine is very much consumed, even designed, for the food they eat.
The Over 60s showed the highest variance from the norm, with 95% preferring to drink with food than without.
Question 15: Would you allow someone under 18 to drink wine with a meal?
This was a controversial one – and one we debated even including, for fear of being seen to endorse under-age drinking – but we felt it was another important cultural attitude to measure, particularly again in the context of continental comparisons.
The results speak for themselves. 5 in 6 people would serve alcohol to a minor with a meal, with almost 1 in 10 doing so without overdue concern to the circumstances (“Always – we should develop a more continental approach to our drinking”).
Interestingly, there wasn’t dramatic variation across gender or age group, although it was the youngest 18-25 age group that felt most strongly about developing a continental approach, with 1 in 5 saying they would always allow someone under 18 to drink wine with a meal.
Question 16: Should wine be made more or less available in Ireland?
Following the failed attempt, by then Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, to introduce cafe-bar licences in Ireland in 2005, we thought this would make interesting reading, particularly given that the licensing of alcohol remains an ongoing, often very heated, debate.
Well, once again, the results speak for themselves: almost 6 in 10 people believe wine should be made more available in Ireland, with licensing extended to the likes of cafes. Only 2% of respondents believed wine was too easily available and should be restricted more, with the remaining 40% happy that, as a country, we’ve the balance right.
Numbers for those calling for more restrictions were too small for meaningful variance across gender or age group, but there were some differences in those calling for more availability to be made. 2 in 3 men thought wine should be made more available (versus 1 in 2 women), with almost 4 in 5 18-25s agreeing.
Question 17: Aside from price, how important are each of the following in choosing wine?
This was a broad and multi-faceted question, aimed at highlighting what drives buying decisions amongst wine consumers.
By some distance, grape and country or region were given as being the most important factors in choosing a bottle of wine, more than twice as important as brand or label. Closure type and alcohol levels were also well down the priority list.
The emphasis on grape type and country is yet another indicator of the Irish wine drinker’s increased knowledge and confidence in buying wine, relying less on recognised brand names or being star-struck by fancy labels. This is good news for the industry and the consumer, as it drives variety, diversity and choice.
Question 18: Do you have a preference for alcohol level?
Despite rumblings of consumers actively rooting out low alcohol wines, we weren’t so sure. Ok, there’s not many people come in looking for anaesthesia from a bottle of wine, but likewise, alcohol’s important in the experience of enjoying it. So, naturally enough, we thought we’d ask.
Only 3% of respondents had a strong position on alcohol, with 2% actively seeking out low alcohol wines, and half that number actively looking for high alcohol.
Almost 6 in 10 people didn’t care what alcohol was in a wine, provided the taste was right.
Of the different age groups, only the Over 60s stood out as actively selecting a particular alcohol level, with almost 7 in 10 choosing wines in the 11-14% bracket.
Question 19: Do you have a preference for closure?
The perennial debate amongst wine academics, where often the term “screw-cap” is followed by a collective, sharp intake of breath. Traditional cork has been the preferred wine closure for centuries, particularly for fine and long-ageing wines where its’ uniquely porous nature allows sufficient ‘breathing’ for a good wine to develop further in bottle. Conversely, screw-caps guarantee sealed in freshness, particularly on young and white wines, and eliminate the dreaded cork-taint, a fickle failure rate on a percentage of all corks.
Well it seems the failure rate of cork remains an acceptable one for the majority of consumers, although it’s a close-run thing. Just over half of respondents still prefer the traditional cork, but almost 4 in 10 would opt for a screw-cap, given the choice. Only 7% preferred the supposed “best of both worlds” artificial cork closure.
Only in one age group was there a reversal in preference, and again it was the Over 60s; 6 in 10 preferring screw-cap over the more cumbersome cork.
Question 20: Do you have a preference for organic or biodynamic wines?
Another topical issue and ensuing debate. Do wine drinkers really care about the processes involved in the planting, growing, harvesting, vinifying and bottling of the finished product that ends up in their basket?
The rather damning, and somewhat surprising, feedback is no.
6 in 10 respondents couldn’t give a monkeys (direct quote – OK, we did put that in the response option), with only 2% of people claiming they try to buy organic or biodynamic wherever possible.
It’s not all that black-and-white, however, for those growers and vintners dedicated to organic methods. 4 in 10 people did indicate they would consider it a bonus if a wine was organic or biodynamic, suggesting that, while it may not be a priority, or something people are necessarily prepared to pay more for, there is some value placed on organic methods by a significant proportion of consumers.
Question 21: If you had to give up wine, chocolate or sex for the rest of your life, which would it be?
Well, find out tomorrow folks.
Frankly, we’re shocked ;)


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