Wine Intelligence CEO Lulie Halstead reflects on the consumer relationship with premium wine following the recent Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines conference held in Champagne, France

How do we define premium wine? Is there a difference between expensive, luxury and fine wine? Why do people buy wine in these categories? What will fine wine be in the future and who will be drinking it?

These questions were all discussed at the recent 2018 edition of the Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines conference.  Building on the success of the Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines 2017 conference, hosted by Nicole Rolet at her Chene Bleu estate, over 60 leading figures from around the world gathered at the beginning of July in Champagne for this new edition, which was opened by Hugh Johnson. His answer to the definition question: “A fine wine is a wine is simply a worth talking about”.

Drawing on the experience of wine industry leading thinkers including Eduardo Chadwick (Errazuriz), Paul Grieco (Terroir, NYC), Maggie Henriquez (Krug), Miguel Torres (Familia Torres), Karissa Kruse (Sonoma County Winegrowers) and Reva K. Singh (Sommelier India) the ‘salon’ style event explored the future role of fine wine. In terms of what future ‘fine’ wines may be, Steven Spurrier suggested that “To restrict fine wines only to regions that have already been discovered is a nonsense”.

Looking at fine wine from a consumer perspective, Wine Intelligence is just completing a 2018 update of UK Portraits, our wine drinker attitude and behavioural segmentation of UK wine consumers. Those who typically buy ‘fine’ wines are in a group we have named the Adventurous Explorer segment. They are typically middle aged or older, experienced drinkers, who derive pleasure from their wine knowledge yet remain quite value conscious and price driven, even when buying more expensive wines.

Although Adventurous Explorers seek exploration in their wines choices, they also have a strong sense of what wines they like and tend to have a regular repertoire of reliable, go-to brands and estates. They are also high frequency wine drinkers: as one retired Adventurous Explorer told us in a recent interview, ‘I drink wine every day, before dinner, but not earlier than 2 or 3 in the afternoon’.

Although drinkers in this segment are willing to pay higher prices for wine, they are also keen value-seekers – in part due to their consumption frequency and knowledge levels. They are strongly motivated by price promotions and actively seek deals and promotions, investing time searching for offers from a range of retailers, and spreading their business between several outlets. One of our male Adventurous Explorer interviewees told us recently: “Some of the guys I work with pointed out that there was some very nice Margaux in Aldi, very reasonably priced at £9.99. We used the Vivino app on the Aldi website, which showed they were supposed to be £28-£30 online, so we bought a half dozen cases”.

Building on Steve Spurrier’s remarks at the conference that ‘fine’ wine has the potential to originate from a wine range of geographies, Adventurous Explorers tend to drink wines from the broadest range of countries and regions and are strongly influenced by where they have travelled to and experienced, choosing to drink local, unknown wines when abroad, building on the overall pleasurable experience of travel and culinary experiences. According to one, ‘Our wine knowledge and what we buy here in the UK is based on what we’ve understood when we are overseas’.

In a global industry that continues to face increases in taxation whilst price points at retail are being squeezed, an appreciation of what drives and motivates consumption of ‘fine’ wine is paramount. An energy sector expert who attend the Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines 2018 conference to provide an outsider’s perspective said “One of the biggest issues you face in the wine industry is that you, who work in it, like us in the energy sector, are not representative of our own consumers – we just know too much because it’s our job.”

Author: Lulie Halstead

Email: Lulie@wineintelligence.com

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