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WSET research throws damning light on UK wine knowledge

Published:  30 August, 2019

The term ‘corked’ refers to broken pieces of cork in a wine bottle and ‘terroir’ is a genre of French horror film, according to many consumers in our great wine-drinking nation.

The eyebrow-raising views have come to light thanks to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, which has published the results of its research into UK wine knowledge in the run up to Wine Education Week commencing on September 9.

Among the 1,500 British adults canvassed, 28% insisted ‘terroir’ was a breed of dog, while 7% believed ‘corked’ referred to the drinker who has had one glass too many, rather than the wine reacting with the cork and smelling of damp cardboard.

Other gems include the belief that Sauternes is a planet in our solar system (7%), a continental beach resort (20%), or an orange (29%).

Fewer than half of respondents knew it is a sweet dessert wine.

Clearly, there are some gaps in the nation’s wine knowledge – something that Ian Harris, CEO of the WSET, seeks to redress.

“With a whole world of wine out there to discover, it’s hardly surprising that there are gaps in the nation’s knowledge, or that the prospect of learning more might feel intimidating. It’s encouraging, though, to see that so many Britons are keen to gain more knowledge about one of their favourite drinks - and Wine Education Week is the perfect time to do just that.”

On the upside, it seems UK consumers – who drink 22 million bottles of wine each week – are keen and eager to learn.

While a quarter confessed to knowing “absolutely nothing” about wine, over half said they would like to learn more about wine, with one in five fearing they are stuck in a wine rut, and more than a third (35%) tending to stick to a few different types of wine.

The research also revealed illuminating insights into how consumers navigate the wine aisle.

A third of us choose a bottle of wine simply because we like the label, while a further one in ten have bought a wine because the name sounds “classy”.

When it comes to learning more about wine, 34% say they simply don’t know where to start, 28% think it’s too complicated and 17% have been traumatised by bad experiences with sommeliers and waiters.

Interestingly, men are much more likely to find the whole topic too large and intimidating (34%), compared to 28% of women.

And though women were more likely to get the questions about wine terminology right, men were twice (12%) as likely as women (6%) to claim a good knowledge of wine.

The consumer research was commissioned by the WSET to mark the launch of its Wine Education Week, which is part of the education providers’ 50th anniversary celebrations.

The week, taking place from 9 to 15 September, celebrates the “diversity, taste and culture of the world of wine” with a programme of interactive events, including a gambit to break the Guinness World Record for the largest ever recorded sommelierie lesson.