UK Landscapes 2019 reveals a definite Remain-ish tinge to Britain’s wine drinking population, possibly influenced by the growing belief that their preferred tipple is about to get more expensive
Britain’s wine drinkers were always a Remain-ish group. When Wine Intelligence asked our representative sample of monthly wine drinkers in the UK how they voted in the 2016 Brexit referendum, we observed a slight majority for Remain (51% vs 49% who voted Leave), once we had removed non-voters, ineligibles and those not disclosing how they voted.
If they had the chance to vote again, the UK monthly wine drinker population would vote more strongly for Remain, by 55% to 45% (again having removed non-voters et al), according to our Vinitrac UK survey conducted in late October, just as Boris Johnson wrote his (unsigned) letter requesting an extension to the Brexit process. To a degree our wine drinker result reflects the tracking polling in the UK, which points to a small (52-48) majority for Remain in the country at large, though it appears the monthly wine drinkers are more tilted towards the Remain camp.
Our internal discussions on the question of why monthly wine drinkers are more Remain-ish have debated several theories. One is that that Britain’s wine drinkers are biased towards middle and higher income groups, which did vote more strongly to stay in the EU. However we also have a countervailing trend of older people (who are more likely to be in the monthly wine drinking population) who, in the referendum, were more likely to vote Leave. Analysing our data reveals that age is indeed a good predictor of second-referendum intentions – 18-34 wine drinkers would vote to stay in the UK by a margin of over 2 to 1, while the over 65s would lean Leave by 54% to 46%. There is less of a distinct pattern in terms of household income, with only the wealthiest group (over £60,000 annual income) recording a strong bias towards Remain.
Another hypothesis is that regular wine drinking bestows some cultural affinity for all things Continental. Previously we have observed that UK wine drinkers are more likely to take European holidays, and one might infer that exposure to Spanish beaches or Tuscan hillsides may provoke warmer feelings for Europe generally. Unfortunately we have yet to find anything in our own data – or come across anything published – to allow us to draw a causal link between holidaying in Europe and affinity to EU membership.
The final hypothesis built on the age-old political wisdom that people vote with their wallets. So far, the UK wine industry has largely swallowed cost increases in imported wine due to adverse currency movements. However, trade experts argue that is all due to change after January, claiming that Brexit (in whatever form it takes) will add extra time and costs to wine production and distribution that will have to be absorbed by the consumer. They also claim that Brexit will create more disputes in international trade, due to new bureaucracy and legislations as well as taxes on EU wine that are expected to increase.
Our data suggests that there is a dawning realisation that Brexit is about to hit the UK consumers’ wine budgets – as well as those covering holidays and going out. Some 7 in 10 UK monthly wine drinkers believe that Brexit, if and when it eventually happens, will cause wine prices to rise (an optimistic 5% think prices will fall). While the majority (65%) of consumers think they will remain loyal to their favourite EU tipple after Brexit, 29% think they will buy less EU wine, versus 6% who say they will buy more.
More generally, UK monthly wine drinkers are more likely to be gloomy about their spending on going out to eat and drink (around 19% saying they’ll spend less versus 12% saying they’ll spend more), while a similar proportion thinks their housing costs will rise in a post-Brexit world. The “pocketbook” hypothesis would therefore suggest that if consumers could do something to alleviate this economic hit (ie not leave the EU) they would be more inclined to do so.
For more information on wine consumers’ perceptions and attitudes regarding Brexit and its impact on the UK wine market, please see UK Landscapes 2019.