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Britons confused by wine terms, but thirsty to learn more

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Though Britons drink a staggering 22 million bottles of wine each week, our new research has revealed gaps in Britons’ knowledge of one of their favourite drinks.

According to research1 commissioned by the WSET to mark the launch of our Wine Education Week, which kicks off on 9th September, a third of the British choose a bottle of wine simply because they like the label, while a further one in ten have bought a wine because the name sounds “classy”.

When it comes to terminology, 30 percent of Britons questioned thought that the term terroir is a genre of French horror film, 28 percent insisted it was a breed of dog and only 34 percent knowing that it’s a wine related term. The term ‘corked’ proved puzzling to many, with over a third of respondents believing it means that broken pieces of cork are in a bottle of wine (37 percent) or that the drinker has had one glass too many (7 percent), rather than that the wine has reacted with the cork and smells of damp cardboard.

Sauternes was similarly baffling with 7 percent thinking it was a planet in our solar system, one in five naming it as a continental beach resort, 29 percent saying it was a type of orange and fewer than half of respondents (43 percent) knowing it is actually a sweet dessert wine.

While a quarter of the study participants confess to knowing “absolutely nothing” about wine, it’s clear that Britons are keen to improve their wine knowledge - over half (51 percent) would like to learn more about wine, with one in five fearing that they’re stuck in a wine rut, and more than a third (35 percent) tending to stick to a few different types of wine.

However, when it comes to learning more about wine, 34 percent say they simply don’t know where to start, 28 percent think it is too complicated and 17 percent have been traumatised by “snooty wine waiters”. Interestingly, men are much more likely to find the whole topic too large and intimidating (34 percent), compared to 28 percent of women.

Ian Harris, CEO of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust said:

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.

The research also found that:

● Men are much more likely to find the topic too large and intimidating (34 percent), compared with 28 percent of women.

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

● While eight percent of Britons say they have a “good knowledge” of wine and 12 percent say they “know their way round a wine list”, 13 percent say they can “talk a good game but actually know nothing”.

● When it comes to serving wine with food, only 28 percent of people have successfully tried to “pair” a wine with food, to get the best flavours out of both.

● 17 percent have attempted food and wine pairing but say it was a dismal failure, while 55 percent admit they wouldn’t know where to begin to make the right choices.

● Over a quarter of people say they have bought an expensive wine to show off to family or friends.

● Surprisingly rosé is officially Britain’s most favoured wine colour, picked by 36 percent of the 1,500 respondents, beating white (35 percent) and red wine (27 percent).

● Familiarity seems to be key, as 34 percent of Brits said that the top reason for choosing a wine was because they’d drunk it before (34 percent), while 32 percent take friends’ recommendations.

● Regionally, Norwich was the wine-loving capital of the UK, with 16 percent of people saying they know a lot about wine, beating London (14 percent) while Edinburgh emerged as the wine novice capital (2 percent).

● The younger generation sees itself as being much more knowledgeable about wine than older people, with 20 percent of them claiming some knowledge, compared to just 6 percent of the more modest over 60s.

Britons’ top reasons for choosing wine:

I had drunk it before and loved it 34%
It had an attractive label 33%
A friend recommended it to me 32%
It was the price I wanted to pay 29%
The bottle looked elegant/classy 29%
It was the cheapest I could find 25%
It was the only wine I recognised 24%
I picked it at random 19%


The survey was commissioned to mark WSET’s milestone 50th anniversary with our first ever global Wine Education Week. The week, taking place from 9 - 15 September 2019, celebrates the diversity, taste and culture of the world of wine with a programme of interactive events, all of which are focused on learning about and enjoying wines from across the globe.

Wine Education Week will kick off with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for wine lovers to help break a Guinness World Record for the largest ever recorded sommelierie lesson - tickets are available via Eventbrite.

1 1,500 British adults questioned by Ginger Research in August 2019 on behalf of WSET

* Nielsen/CGA found in March 2019 that Britons drink 22m wine bottles per week