Did British wine drinkers vote for Brexit?

Here at Wine Intelligence we’re used to focussing on the big issues: are you more of a Champagne or a Prosecco kind of person? Do you drink wine mainly to relax at home at the end of a long day, or with friends at parties? What wine regions have you sampled recently?

Well, if you’re in the wine trade these really are big issues, and when they apply to large swathes of the wine-drinking population, they’re capable of making or breaking your business. For most of us, though, wine can be good fun, it can be relaxing, it can even be a great passion – yet it’s a fairly uncontentious part of our lives.

This stands in stark contrast to, say… Brexit.

Whereas most of us can just about cope with a friend or relative favouring Chardonnay when we’d opt for Sauvignon Blanc, this issue, on the other hand, has torn families apart and opened societal wounds that will require more than a little TLC to heal up.

Given the seismic implications of the EU referendum, we thought for the sake of variety that this time we’d spice up our otherwise innocuous UK Vinitrac survey with the most politically charged question of 2016: “In the recent UK referendum on membership of the EU, which way did you vote?”

This unique blend of wine and politics yielded some fascinating results. It may not come as a surprise to note that if qualification to vote was based purely on drinking wine at least once a month, the UK would have Remained. Monthly wine drinkers rejected Brexit about as convincingly as the electorate as a whole approved it, voting 53% to 47% in favour of remain, as opposed to the actual result of 52% to 48% in favour of leave.

Emboldened by our new tilt to psephology, we delved further, and uncovered some more puzzling correlations.  Properly heavy wine drinkers – those imbibing more than twice a week – were more likely to vote Leave (noting, as all good researchers must, that correlation is not causality). Leavers also had a buying pattern which already indicated their disdain for things European: they were less likely to buy wine from Italy, France, Hungary, Germany, Spain, or Portugal …but more likely to buy wine from Australia, New Zealand and – significantly – from California.

In terms of demographics, the Remain camp showed a slight female bias (52%), whereas the Leave camp was evenly split. In line with the national polling, older drinkers were more likely to fly the banner of Brexit whereas younger drinkers leaned towards remaining in the EU. Predictably, drinkers in Scotland were the most Europhile, as opposed to those in the Southeast (ex London), who accounted for the highest proportion of regular wine drinking Brexiteers.

So, in answer to our question: No, British wine drinkers did not vote for Brexit, though perhaps they could have voted more convincingly against it, given the subsequent fall in the value of the pound, and consequent increase in the cost of wine in the shops. Had regular wine drinkers had their way, Mr Cameron would still be in office, Mr Johnson on the back benches, and the cost of Chablis would probably be lower than it is right now.

Perhaps what this exercise of blending consumer research ordinaire with the, er, bouquet of current affairs should remind us of is that consumer data does not exist in a vacuum – consumers live in a wider, socio-political context, and this context is always manifest in one way or another among the information we gather. In light of this it is no surprise that tremors – be they aftershocks, foreshocks, or both – from the earthquake that was Brexit can be felt even in the most uncontentious of spheres as the wine aisle.

Author: David Thompson

Email: david@wineintelligence.com