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New World Wine Maker Blog - Technical Articles

Oxygen management during winemaking

By Charl Theron of Wineland Media

The first spontaneous reaction of winemakers, when air or oxygen during winemaking is discussed or mentioned, is its negative association with the oxidation or browning of wines. The correct oxygen control can, however, have various advantages and contribute positively to wine characteristics.

An analysis of faulty wines at the well-known International Wine Challenge in London showed that oxidation or reduction are the two most important sources of faults, which occurred the most in wines. It is the extremes of oxygen exposure, either too much or too little. The controlled exposure to oxygen can, however, prevent both problems. The following six ways of controlled oxygen exposure exist during winemaking:

  1. Hyper oxygenation is the planned browning of juice prior to fermentation by means of a high oxygen addition of 8 to 30 mg/ℓ over a few hours, in order to remove potential browning components from the juice.
  2. Macro oxygenation is the dosing of 8 mg/ℓ oxygen halfway during fermentation to ensure a smooth and complete fermentation. It is often added together with nitrogen yeast nutrients.
  3. First phase of micro oxygenation (MOX): It is applied after fermentation, but before SO2-addition over a period of two to six weeks to stabilise colour, add more body to the wine and improve the longevity of the wine. It is a continuous dosing of oxygen at 1 to 5 mg/ℓ daily and depends on the oxygen appetite of the wine. This is 20 to 100 more than the oxygen supplied by barrels. The dosing units are either expressed as mg/ℓ/month (30 to 150) or mℓ/ℓ/month (20 to 100).
  4. Second phase of micro oxygenation (MOX): It is continuously applied after malolactic fermentation (MLF) and SO2-addition over a period of four to 12 weeks to refine the wine structure, integrate aromatic compounds like pyrazines and oak flavours, soften wood tannins and limit reductive tendencies. Dosages vary from 3 to 12 mg/ℓ/month or 2 to 8 mℓ/ℓ/month.
  5. Third phase of micro oxygenation (MOX): It is continuously introduced after barrel maturation when the wine is one or two years old over a period of two to 12 weeks to harmonise wood tannins and limit reductive flavours before bottling. Typical dosages are 0.4 to 3.0 mg/ℓ/month or 0.25 to 2.0 mℓ/ℓ/month.
  6. Ciqueage: It is named after the noise made by the solenoid, when the remote control is pressed to liberate oxygen. It is the punctual introduction of oxygen during maturation at 1 to 2 mg/ℓ, which is equivalent to the oxygen uptake during rackings.

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Putting the Theory Behind the “Vinotype” to the Test with Science

By Becca Yaemans of The Academic Wino

The concept of wine and food pairing is one that is well ingrained in many people’s minds: red wine with red meat, white wine with fish, etc.  The idea is that the complexities of a specific wine will complement best with the composition of a specific type of food. For example, as Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein suggests in his book Perfect pairings: A Master Sommelier’s Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food, Cabernet Sauvignon works very well with red meats as the body and big tannins require fat and protein to balance out and harmonize with the wine.

There is another, more recent approach out there, Vinotyping, that effectively throws out the whole idea of one perfect wine pairing with one perfect food type and instead focuses on the consumer themselves, which is led by Master of Wine Tim Hanni. A play on the word “phenotype”, the Vinotype approach focuses on an individual’s own genetics and experiences, and categorizes that individual as one of four different Vinotypic classifications: sweet, hypersensitive, sensitive, and tolerant.

Stepping back a little bit to take a quick glance at the science behind the Vinotype concept, it helps to have a basic understanding of “genotypes” and “phenotypes”.  In the most simplistic terms, your genotype is basically your genetic code.  You get half your genes from mom, and half from your dad, and the combination of the two for any given trait is your genotype.  Phenotype, on the other hand, is this genotype in “real life”.  In other words, it’s the observable characteristics that you see based upon your genotype and interactions with the environment.

For the Vinotype theory, it focuses the phenotype on how it relates to wine and wine preferences.  As Hanni defines in his book Why You Like the Wines You Like, the “vinotype” is “the set of observable characteristics of a wine-imbibing individual resulting from the interaction of its genotypic sensory sensitivies in a wine-related environment”.  So, in other words, your vinotype is a combination of your genetics and your experiences with wine and other beverages, and the interaction between the two.

Putting Vinotyping to the Scientific Test

In a new study published in the International Journal of Wine Business Research, researchers from Michigan State University aimed to evaluate the Vinotype theory from a scientific perspective, by looking at any association between everyday food and beverage preferences to wine preferences, as well as whether one could predict what kinds of wines someone would like based upon their everyday food and beverage choices.

The Study Approach

To answer these questions, participants first completed a questionnaire to determine their food and beverage consumption habits as well as their preference.

Next, participants were invited to a reception where they would taste 12 different food and wine combinations at different stations. At each station, participants were asked to taste the wine and food items separately and to rate them separately.  Then, they were to rate their how much they liked or disliked the combination of the two items.

For the food and wine pairing stations, the researchers recruited some of their students to identify combinations they believed would be either well liked or disliked by most people (which they determined via investigations and research).

The reception lasted about 2 hours, with the total amount of wine and food consumed per participant adding up to about 530mL of wine (44mL pour per station) and a full meal of food (appetizer sized portion per station). Participants approached each station in random order, depending upon how busy a particular station was at the time.

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CHINA: Yes? No? Maybe?

If you are a winemaker that is looking to expand your export market, you would have been living under a rock if the land of rice and tea and more recently wine, have not crossed your mind.

Since the economic reforms of the 1980’s, wine consumption in China has grown dramatically. Despite only having a per capita consumption (per person/per year) of 1.5L (compared to a whopping 50L of the delightfully intoxicated French), with a population that is fast approaching 1.4 billion, China is ranked as the 5th largest consumer of wine. Not to be outnumbered by their thirst for wine, China is also the 5th largest producer of wine in the world, seeing an average 60% increase in production every five years.

CURRENT WINE SITUATION

In terms of wine preference, red is pretty much leading the race, with white wine consumption trailing considerably. The colour red itself is of great significance, being associated with prosperity, happiness and celebrations (compared to white usually reserved for mourning and funerals). There is also a significant correlation between the tannins found in red wines and those found in the number one beverage in China, tea. As a very health conscious nation, the health benefits associated with red wine also play an important role.

Current consumption methods of wine is quite appalling to any Western wine drinker. You think adding ice to a glass of wine is a major faux pas…consider this…wine in China is consumed in a ‘shooter’ like fashion, with the whole glass being consumed in one go after a toast. White wines served with Coca-Cola and red wines with Sprite are also common sites. Wine by the glass is still very much reserved for upmarket restaurants only. At the moment, there are two main market segments. The top wine segment consisting of very expensive red wines that are very popular amongst the rich and famous. On the other end, the lower entry level market is growing in popularity and consists of more easy-drinking, lower quality, cheaper wines. As far as the division between bulk and packaged wines for export to China goes, the figures for 2006-2011 are displayed in Figure 1. Packaged wine exports saw an immense increase of 1206%, compared to the 74% decrease in bulk wine exports. This is an indication of the maturing tastes of the Chinese consumer.

In terms of distribution, your importer could distribute your wine via a couple of channels (Figure 2). Most popular would be ‘on trade’ (wine is sold and consumed on the same premises) and ‘off trade’ locations.

So, the biggest question remains: should you or should you not export to China? What follows below are three lists consisting of factors that make exporting to China a good idea, a bad idea or an ugly idea.

The heck to the NO list…

  1. French wine accounts for 50% of the wine imported into China. This is followed by countries such as Australia, Spain, Chile, Italy and the USA. South Africa will have to do considerable work to rank amongst these countries.
  2. The Chinese culture is well-known for their ability to copy…anything…and wine is no exception. Counterfeits of your wine is a very real threat to your brand and your reputation.
  3. Trademark squatters are individuals who register well-known foreign brands. Upon entering the country with your brand that have already been registered, you have some options (all of which will burn a considerable hole in your wallet): buy back your trademark, rebrand to create a new trademark or negotiate for the right to use your own trademark. Unfortunately, a ‘first to file, wins’ attitude exists in China, making this a challenge.
  4. It is still very expensive to export to China. Think 14% customs tariff, 17% VAT and 10% consumption tax. There are current trade agreements taking place between South Africa and China, but these are still very much under construction.
  5. China is enforcing a much stricter inspection policy. Wine arriving in China will now be scrutinised for three major parameters: alcohol, sugar and metal concentrations. Wines have to have an alcohol content of within 0.5% as printed on the label. The sugar content has to correlate with the type of wine your importer has registered your wine as (dry, sweet etc.) and thee main metal concentrations have to be within specification: copper (< 1 mg/L), manganese (<2 mg/L) and iron (<8 mg/L). If it is rejected on the basis of one of these analysis, the wine will either be destroyed or sent back at your expense, so test everything before it leaves the country.
  6. General challenges of exporting to China include a lack of transparency, unreliable information, the handful of giants that control the local wine industry, consumer and cultural differences, as well as the added logistical challenges of distribution.
  7. The local production could address the growing demand for wine. Take into consideration that the local workforce consists of over 80 million. The arable land covers more than 1.4 million kilometres. China is a country with a large number of modern business leaders, no shortage of technological knowledge and ability, as well as massive capital inputs.

The MAYBE this is a good idea list…

  1. Red wine consumption outnumbers that of white wine by 85% versus 15%, respectively. Because female wine consumption is on the increase, this ratio could shift in favour of white wines and present possible new target markets.
  2. Wine in China is very much a French affair. Wine is synonymous with France for most consumers. Changing this perception will be challenging.
  3. Trademark squatters is a real threat. Make sure legislation is on your side.
  4. The local Chinese wine production is still accounting for 80% of wine consumption in China.
  5. With the austerity program in place, lavish spending is being decreased.
  6. There will be a natural cooling down period in consumption. The growth percentage of 143.3% from 2008 to 2012 is predicted to decrease to a more moderate 33.8% from now till 2017. This is still a hefty number considering the population size.
  7. Growth will more likely happen in the middle and lower class wine sectors.
  8. Because the Chinese wine consumer is such a newbie to the world of wine, considerable education will be required.
  9. The increased volume and value of Chinese wine imports will also experience a natural cooling down period.

The YES, let’s do this list…

  1. China is a growing country, not just with regards to population size: the wine industry, per capita consumption and wine sales are all on the increase.
  2. Only one in every five bottles of wine consumed, is imported.
  3. The Chinese consumer is becoming more mature in their tastes and preferences. This means that they are spending more money and even moving into the sparkling, white and rosé wine sectors.
  4. The Chinese government has launched an austerity program in order to cut down on lavish spending (including those fancy, very expensive bottles of red wines served at banquets). This has forced importers and distributors in search for other markets to explore.
  5. The total worldwide wine consumption is growing and this future growth is going to be driven by Asian and American markets.
  6. Imports to China are still growing in volume and value.
  7. The most important role-player in the Chinese wine industry is THE CHINESE WINE CONSUMER. They are open and enthusiastic and with an ever-increasing love for the Western culture, including wine. The modern Chinese consumer is earning more money, buying more and willing to spend money on better quality goods. These consumers are becoming more aware of wine and the associated health benefits, especially compared to traditional and local high alcohol drinks. Because they are travelling abroad more often, they are experiencing wines in a more global manner and would like to be able to have similar experiences in their home country once they return. They are interested in the Western lifestyle and luxury and this is what wine represents; it is seen as a symbol of: an urban lifestyle, sophistication and social status.
  8. China is well-known for their so-called trademark squatters and counterfeited wines, but changes in Chinese legislation and government intervention have started addressing these issues.

So you have decided to export to China…now what?

WINE TYPE

The Chinese prefer smooth, medium-bodied red wines that are fruity and not too acidic. Popular cultivars include Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In summer months, with the warmer weather, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc become more popular.

CHINESE WINE CONSUMER

The modern Chinese wine consumer lives in the city and are young coming from wealthy families. Fifty percent of consumers are 25-44 years old and educated. They see wine as a product of culture and luxury and a sign of popularity and reputation. Wealthy female consumers are on the increase and they are more willing to pay for their favourite items. So if you can cater for the female tastes, you will grow your sales. The Chinese are a face saving nation. You have to make them feel comfortable with their (lack of) wine knowledge and their choice of wine. Use your packaging wisely to tell of the origin of the wine and as an indication of the price. Focus on the individual consumer and the younger generation.

DISTRIBUTION

Ideally, your Chinese importer and distributor should be China-based, preferably in one of the larger cities and specialise in wine distribution. You require a distributor with the necessary qualifications in order to import and sell wine. Trust is an important factor in order to successfully conduct business in China. these relationships take time to establish and ideally you should be introduced or recommended by a mutual acquaintance.  Your distributor should sell a good product for a specific market, have a good network in place and be dynamic. Keep in mind that your distributor will require assistance from both entities involved in the exporting and importing of your wine.

Some pointers…

  1. You will have to educate the importer and consumers about your country, your wine, your brand and your story.
  2. Present different wines in different price categories to avoid product conflict for your distributor.
  3. Visit China. Often. You will require hands-on, pro-active marketing on ground level.
  4. Make an effort to understand the cultural differences. To build dynamic, long-lasting business relationships require respect, patience, trust, communication and an idea of social etiquette.
  5. Make all your marketing material available in Chinese, including websites. Have lots of pictures and information on your history and family.
  6. To enter the market, stick to red wine, cork closures and classic French packaging.
  7. Keep in mind that we have some major selling points as a South African brand: two indigenous  cultivars, Chenin blanc and Pinotage, as well as the winelands as a major tourist destination. Think Brand South Africa. Some institutions that could help, include: The Department of Trade and Industry 9TDI), Trade and Investment South Africa (TISA), Department of Tourism, Wesgro and WOSA.
  8. Register your trademark and do an online search of registered trademarks in existence in the Chinese market.
  9. Analyse your wine before it leaves the country.
  10. Keep in mind that the Asian marker means more than just China, think Hong Kong, Vietnam etc.
  11. We have wines with big, bold aromas and flavours, perfect for going up against the spicy cuisine of the Chinese. Keep this in mind when planning promotional/marketing dinners and/or events.
  12. A handy website filled with people who have been there, done that and got the T-shirt: www.grapewallofchina.com

These are only a number of factors to take into consideration when making the decision of whether to dip a toe in the Chinese wine market or to make a splash.

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Vegan wine: Do the yeast count?

By Erika Szymanski of the Winoscope

The vegan wine conversation usually goes like this:

“So, I’m looking for a vegan wine…”

“Wait; isn’t all wine vegan?”

“Dude, no. A lot of wine is clarified using egg whites, or gelatin, or a milk protein called casein, or this stuff from fish bladders called isinglass. Wine isn’t just fermented grapes, you know. Winemakers can use a bunch of other stuff for processing steps, and they often don’t have to put it on the label.”

“Wow. I never knew that. I don’t want animal products in my wine! So, are any wines really vegan?”

“Yes! Not all winemakers use those products. Some use a kind of powdered clay called bentonite, and some just let the wine sit for a longer time so the particles settle out by gravity. But all of that isn’t always on the label, so you have to look kind of carefully for “vegan friendly” or “no animal products” or “fined with bentonite” on the label or something like that. Some big brands, like Bonny Doon, are known for making only vegan wine, so that makes things a little easier.”

That whole dialogue sidesteps a crucial question: what counts as an animal? And what counts as exploiting it? Talking about whether wine is vegan, in other words, should sound more like talking about whether honey is vegan. Do the bees count? Do the yeast count? Are they being exploited?

A Slate article about the vegan honey question way back in 2008 makes the central point: “any vegan who eats honey but avoids milk is making the tacit assumption that the pain experienced by a bee counts for something less than the pain experienced by a cow.” From caring about bees, it’s a short and slippery slope to caring about silkworms, or yeast or, heck, plants. And then where does that put the conscientious vegan?

Ways of stopping that slide – and not expiring for want of ethically acceptable calories – generally fall into three tracks:

Pain – The “I’ll eat things that don’t feel pain” argument which, troublesomely, requires deciding what can feel pain. Assuming that scientists understand the basics of how pain works, yeast don’t have a nervous system equipped to feel pain. However, both yeast and plants can respond intelligently to their environments and will activate stress responses following damage or when deprived of enough food and water. I often hear microbiologists talk about their yeast being unhappy. On the one hand, they’re being metaphorical; on the other, they know their yeast uncommonly well and recognize their distress signals …

 

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WHAT’S IN A NAME? Consumer preferance part two

Previously we focused on consumer preference with regards to wine selection, as well as the major influencing factors. Part two of this topic continues looking at trends from around the world, information which is critical when you are exporting your wine. So what catches the eye and wallet of the foreign wine buyer?

AUSTRALIA

In Australia in 2007, a study looking at the preference of 740 consumers with regards to 16 attributes, showed that brand was the most important attribute when consumers displayed preference for a wine, followed by price, region of origin and medals or awards (4). In contrast, another Australian study in the same year, found higher loyalty towards price than any other attribute, including brand, region of origin or variety (17). So a consumer would rather choose a different brand or variety before buying a product in a different price category. As far as the provision of product information goes, consumers were more likely to choose Australian wines than American ones when provided with information about the wine regions or innovative wine production in Australia (6). In 2006 it was found that ‘someone recommending a wine’ and ‘having tasted it previously’ were key attributes to in determining consumer preference, while in=store promotion and information and attractive labels were least important (18).

USA

An American consumer survey found that the segment of consumers that preferred sweet wines, were primarily female, young, adventurous, willing to try new wines, easily embarrassed when confronted by wine authority, wanted to be engaged and their confidence built in their wine preference and they need personalised advice on wine and food pairings. In contrast, consumers who preferred a more intense type of wine style, were more likely to be male, a little older, more confident in choosing wine and wine and food pairings, while preferring dry wines that are complex, balanced and full-bodied (10). With this knowledge you can now focus marketing efforts on the consumer segment that your particular wine appeals to.

SPAIN

In a study of Spanish consumers in 2011, ‘it is matching food’ was found to be the most important attribute, followed by designation of origin, then ‘I tasted it previously’, grape variety, and country of origin. Vintage and ‘someone recommended it’ were of less importance and brand name and ‘I read about it’ were found to be not at all important and as expected, label design was the least important attribute when consumers had to choose a wine. Price was found to be unimportant when consumers were selecting premium red wines, as they expected the price to be higher and as a result paid more attention to other attributes (11).

ITALY

In 2008 it was found that direct, personal and sensorial experience are the most important attributes when consumers select a wine. Certain elements that influence the choice of consumers include attractiveness of label, variety of grapes, brand and region of origin. As expected, the impact of these attributes differ significantly depending on certain variables, of which involvement towards wine, frequency of consumption and geographical province seem to be the most influential (9).

CANADA

Using a trained panel to generate sensory attributes for 6 Canadian wines combining it with the preference data of consumers, a research group was able to identify the drivers of liking for these wines, in other words, identify which sensory attributes are responsible for a consumer liking a specific wine. For the Chardonnay wine, fruity, spicy, vanilla and oak aromas were identified, while vanilla and oak characters were drivers of liking in two red wines. When wines were evaluated in a blind tasting, two groupings of sensory characteristics were identified. When additional information of the wines was provided, a third grouping was identified. This reveals that extrinsic cues can affect the sensory experience of a consumer (14).

In a study of the most influential attributes in different countries, including Australia, UK, China, Germany and Israel, ‘I tasted the wine previously’ and ‘someone recommended it’, were always amongst the top three most influential attributes (19). This means that promotional activities allowing consumers to experience your wine before purchase could significantly influence the buying potential of your wine.

As previously mentioned, the importance of these attributes differs among market segments. Two factors that play a significant role in segmenting consumer preference are gender and age.

Gender

Women:    rate colours, images, pictures and logos higher than men
find black labels significantly more confusing, hard to read and too much information
consider wax seals an indication of freshness and foil coverings an indication of quality
more reliant on shelf information than men who read about wine at home (9)
prefer wine in medium price bracket ($10-14) while men favour %25+ bracket (17)
more consistent in wine choice whereas men are less prone to buy same wine twice (17)

Men:           prefer to know significantly more about vintage and cultivar than women
favour red wine (17)

Age

Consumers can also be segmented based on their age: traditionalists (born 1900-1944), Baby Boomers (born 1945-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1976) and Generation Y or Millennials (born 1977-2000). There are distinct differences between the purchasing behaviours of the different segments (17). Because consumers in the different segments drink wine for different reasons, a winemaker needs to understand the motivation of the consumer in order to adjust marketing strategies according to meet the desired requirements of each segment (17). While the Baby Boomers are the most significant segment in terms of purchase and consumption, Generation Y is emerging as an important segment due to their increasing buying power. This generation is growing up in a media-savvy, brand-conscious world, and an almost unlimited access to information, seeing as nearly 100% of Generation Y is connected to the Internet. This generation is displaying the largest increase in consumption compared to the other segments, making this a growing market with increasing market power (22).

Besides Generation Y that is being identified as an emerging market, China is a country ripe for the picking.

China

Due to the sheer size of the consumer base, estimated at an astonishing 200 million people, China has become a prime export target. Furthermore, the entry of China into the World Trade Organization implies drastic reductions in tax and tariffs. Even though exports to China are down, consumption figures are still on the increase, with a further increase of 54% predicted for the period of 2011 to 2015. Consumption is estimated at 300 million bottles of wine per year and nearly all red wine. As for the Chinese consumer, they prefer red wines with meals and the sweeter the better. Any arguments about the health benefits of wine are well-received and whereas everyday wine consumption is almost non-existent, the primary reason for purchase is gift-giving. Chinese consumers like to sample wines before they buy, prefer discount-stores, are impulsive buyers and have no knowledge on Chine food pairings with wine. Some of the more important drivers of liking for consumers include the price, where $10-15 per bottle is preferred, followed by the $5-10 range, prior knowledge of the wine or a recommendation, followed by in-store tastings (8). The country of origin is also very important for Chinese consumers. These consumers also prefer prestige/stately labels and show preference for brands featuring flowers, gold, animals, dragons or even cartoon characters.

While there is an absence of a wine culture in China, consumers still need and want more information pertaining to wine and health, wine etiquette and finding good value wines and the major sources of this information have been identified as consumer reports, newspaper columns and tasting experiences in-store (8). As for their taste in wine, consumers prefer sweet red wines with aromas of berries, plums and cherries, while strong wood characters are also appreciated. Preferred varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel, as well as wines with one powerful aroma, rather than a bouquet. It is important to target those consumers that are not afraid to try new wines and enjoy the diversity of choice (8). In order to enter this market, cellars will need to produce mid-range red wine that matches Chinese food, as well as pricier red wines in elaborate packaging to address the tradition of Chinese gift-giving. In addition, having Chinese people to promote you brand will overcome both the language and culture barriers.

The SA wine consumer

The consumption per capita in South Africa is still much lower than in other producing countries and by researching the purchasing behaviour of South African consumers, it is possible to improve and understand the South African wine market (17). The average South African consumer spends approximately R200 to R299.99 per month on wine, 50% consume 1 to 12 glasses of wine per month and spend an average of R25 to R49.99 on a bottle of wine. The majority (53%) prefer red wine, with variety (40%), price (20%), origin/brand (10%), word of mouth (10%), wine awards (5%) and packaging (2%) being the most important attributes when choosing a bottle of wine. Preferred points of sale include the cellar door, liquor stores and the supermarket. A consumer survey in 2010 found that there is correlation between the purchasing behaviour of South African consumers and demographic variables. Similar to other countries, males spend on average more on a bottle of wine and had a higher wine knowledge compared to females. More males favour red wines and natural cork and consumers are willing to pay more for a bottle of red wine than white (17).

The only way to ensure success in the market, be it domestic or foreign, is to understand consumer preferences for wine flavours and extrinsic factors that influence purchase behaviour, consumption and repeat purchase (14). It is possible to select suitable target markets with the appropriate knowledge of consumer segments and the wine origins they prefer (12). Quality, good value and variety seem to be the most important wine features, while brand, distribution, price and extrinsic factors are better predictors of sales that the sensory characteristics of the wine (6).

It is possible to measure flavour-related chemical compounds in wine, generate descriptors with a trained panel and generate like/dislike descriptors with a consumer panel and use this information to identify what descriptors are responsible for consumer-liking and the aroma compounds responsible for them (15).

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WHAT’S IN A NAME? Consumer preferance part one

Introduction

In an observation of wine shoppers in Australia, it was found that consumers spent an average of less than one minute in front of the shelf, a total of approximately four minutes browsing in the store and only a minority of shoppers spent up to 15 minutes buying wine (20). Less than one minute! Add to that the fact that wine buyers are overwhelmed by (read spoiled for) choice AND that they want to make a quick decision and convincing a consumer to choose your product over a neighbouring bottle becomes a daunting task.

The Cambridge Business Dictionary defines consumer preference as: ‘The fact of people liking or wanting one thing more than another.’ So how do you make someone like of want your product more than your competitor’s? One way of doing it is by using preference mapping.

Preference Mapping 101:
1. Firstly, a trained sensory panel describes a wine’s specific sensory characteristics and indicate the intensity of each of these characteristics, creating a sensory profile for each in a series of wines.
2. Secondly, a representative sample of target consumers evaluate the wine, give their opinion and indicate whether they like/dislike it, as well as which wines are preferred.
3. The final step is to link the consumer preference to the sensory description of the wine.

Preference mapping allows you to identify which wine characteristics are preferred by consumers and which consumers have similar like and dislikes, which in turn allows you to identify winemaking practices that can be manipulated in order to change the sensory attributes of a specific wine so that it is preferred by a set of consumers (21). Besides indicating whether they like a product or not, consumers can provide additional information which will allow segmentation of markets based on a variety of factors, e.g. age, demographical information, gender, wine knowledge etc. Marketing segmentation allows you to divide your target market into subsections of consumers that display similar traits, likings and wants, which means you can now optimise your promotional and advertising techniques to address the needs of a particular customer segment (22).

A previous study divided US consumers into four groups using their level of wine knowledge as a segmentation tool (23):
1. wine novice: just starting to experiment
2. wine interested: drinks wine occasionally; become more curious about product
3. wine lover: drinks considerable amount of wine; interested in learning more; knows a lot about wine
4. wine connoisseur: expert; enormous amount of knowledge about wine

The factors that influence the preference and purchase behaviour of consumers are distinctly different in the different segments. It has been shown that novice consumers are more influenced by the region of origin of a specific wine, independent of the type or brand, whereas an increase in wine knowledge and expertise results in a combination of product attributes becoming more important to the consumer (9). In addition, studies in the US have shown a positive correlation between wine knowledge and wine consumption: the more a consumer knows about the wine, the higher the consumption. Men also tend to have a higher level of subjective wine knowledge, which is important when taking into account that women are responsible for 80% of the wine purchased in the USA (17). To make matters easier, two thirds of wine drinkers in the USA use the internet to get information about wine and more than 50% of all wine drinkers are on Facebook, while 25% of these also use MySpace, YouTube and Twitter (24). So reaching a consumer with targeted product, promotional or marketing information is now just a mouse click or tweet away.

There are various factors that influence the purchase behaviour of a consumer segment, including physiological factors (motivation, personality, perception, learned customer behaviour, lifestyle, values, beliefs, attitudes) and socio-cultural factors (personal influence, reference groups, family influence, social class, culture and sub-culture) (17). So besides all of these factors that influence the customer in their purchase decision, what exactly goes though the mind of a consumer when they stand in front of a shelf lined with bottles of wine as far as the eye can see?

The five steps in the purchase decision process (17):
1. Problem recognition stage: the consumer observes a discrepancy between his/her ideal and actual situation and recognises a NEED. Ideally I would like to have a bottle of wine with dinner and I don’t have one.
2. The consumer searches for information to fill the need. This is done in two ways:
a) internal search of previous experiences with products/brands. I tried this wine last time and really enjoyed it.
b) external search for information: personal sources (advice from family/friends), public sources (consumer reports, government agencies), market sources (information from seller, advertising, company websites etc.). I remember a friend mentioning that this was a really great wine.
3. The consumer assesses the value by evaluating alternative products/brands with regards to both the objective and subjective attributes of the product. But this one has a prettier label and costs less than that one.
4. The purchase decision itself: after all alternatives in the consumers’ consideration set are evaluated, the consumer chooses to purchase the brand/product with the HIGHEST PERCEIVED VALUE. I think this bottle will go well with dinner and is not too expensive.
5. The post-purchase behaviour: the consumer evaluates the purchased item, comparing it with his/her expectations and decides whether he/she is satisfied or dissatisfied. This bottle of wine went well with dinner; I enjoyed it and will buy it again.

There are various product attributes that influence consumer preference (4). These can be classified as either being extrinsic or intrinsic to the product. Extrinsic attributes are external to the product. These are the attributes consumers use to search for a product and marketers most often use to influence consumers. These include wine type (red/white etc.), cultivar, producer, brand, country of origin, region of origin, price, alcohol level, vintage, medals and awards, environmentally friendly/organic, closure, capsule, bottle (shape, size and colour) and label (style, shape and colour). Intrinsic attributes are also known as ‘experience’ attributes which are only evaluated at consumption and associated with the physical characteristics of the wine itself. These include overall taste evaluation, acidity, tannin, sweetness, flavour, off-flavour, aftertaste and complexity (4). The extrinsic attributes will play a significant role in not only convincing a consumer to choose your wine, but also creates an expectation, whereas the intrinsic attributes will ensure that he/she comes back for more if that expectation was met.

It has been found that consumers who purchase larger quantities of wine and buy wine more often are significantly more influenced by the attributes of grape variety and origin of wine. In contrast, promotional display, attractive front label and brand name carry more weight to consumers who purchase smaller amounts of wine and do so less often (22). Of the most important factors including region of origin, quality, price and grape variety, one study found that the region of origin was the most important, with consumers willing to pay more for premium priced wines if they originated from a perceived higher quality wine production area. This study also found region of origin to be more important to women than men and that consumers who prefer red wine were more influenced by this attribute than white wine consumers (17). Similarly it was found that the country of origin, together with price, were the most important factors in wine evaluation, more so than the brand. The presumption that consumers infer a product’s quality from his/her stereotyped beliefs about the country of origin, is referred to as the ‘halo effect’, which results in the origin of the wine being perceived as an indicator of quality (27).

As far as visual cues are concerned, the bottle, colour of the glass, front and back label, capsule, bottle closure and wine case performs not only practical and technical functions, but also plays a role in aesthetics and evokes emotion in a consumer (17). As for the role of packaging in consumer preference, conflicting results have been found, probably due to the fact that the importance of these attributes differ between market segments. The label is the most important piece of communication between the consumer and the marketer and while the front label piques interest, the back label supplies information, of which the most important have been shown to be taste descriptors, winery history and food pairing suggestions (28). An Australian study found the presence of taste descriptors could increase the choice probability of a wine by as much as 7.4% (5). It was found that although 57% of consumers regularly read the back label, they have trouble matching the back description to the actual taste and aroma of the wine. It was found that simple descriptions are the most helpful (17), while unique, eye-catching and colourful features of a label are most desirable from an aesthetic point of view (23). The closure method had no effect on purchase intent, but it did influence the perceived quality. This is important because there is a direct correlation between the perceived quality of a product and how much a consumer is willing to pay for it (17). While a study in 2007 in Australia found label design and visual information to be of zero importance (respondents paid attention to brand, price, region, country of origin and medals), it was proposed that visual elements probably have a strong subliminal effect on wine choice even if consumers can’t articulate it (26). This is supported in a study where the perception and quality of wine differed significantly once the label was evaluated and the wine then tasted (23).

As far as the provision of shelf information is concerned, a study of 21 Shiraz wines in Australia in 2009 found that the presence of taste descriptions increase choice of the wine by 3.9 to 15.1%. When displaying critic scores or ratings, there was a 9.8% increase in choice when as expected the scores were higher, but also if the ratings are in higher agreement. When using a 5 star rating system, researchers saw an average increase if 3.5% in preference per increase in star rating (20).

There has been a tremendous amount of research done to try and figure out what influences a consumer to pick one bottle from a shelf instead of another. Australia is leading the pack with this type of research, providing valuable information as to what exactly it is that the consumer wants. As far as the preference of ‘Old World’ countries are concerned, studies in Italy, France and Spain indicate that ‘designation of origin’, ‘vintage’, ‘it’s matching food’ and ‘I read about it’ are considered to be the most important wine attributes when consumers select a wine. In contrast, preferred wine attributes by ‘New World’ wine consumers in Australia, New Zealand and United States include ‘grape variety’, country of origin’, ‘someone recommended it’ and ‘I tasted the wine previously’. Attributes including ‘brand name’, ‘label design’, ‘price’ and ‘it won a medal or award’ have similar relevance for consumers in both segments (11).

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AUSTRALIA

In Australia in 2007, a study looking at the preference of 740 consumers with regards to 16 attributes, showed that brand was the most important attribute when consumers displayed preference for a wine, followed by price, region of origin and medals or awards (4). In contrast, another Australian study in the same year, found higher loyalty towards price than any other attribute, including brand, region of origin or variety (17). So a consumer would rather choose a different brand or variety before buying a product in a different price category. As far as the provision of product information goes, consumers were more likely to choose Australian wines than American ones when provided with information about the wine regions or innovative wine production in Australia (6). In 2006 it was found that ‘someone recommending a wine’ and ‘having tasted it previously’ were key attributes to in determining consumer preference, while in=store promotion and information and attractive labels were least important (18).

USA

An American consumer survey found that the segment of consumers that preferred sweet wines, were primarily female, young, adventurous, willing to try new wines, easily embarrassed when confronted by wine authority, wanted to be engaged and their confidence built in their wine preference and they need personalised advice on wine and food pairings. In contrast, consumers who preferred a more intense type of wine style, were more likely to be male, a little older, more confident in choosing wine and wine and food pairings, while preferring dry wines that are complex, balanced and full-bodied (10). With this knowledge you can now focus marketing efforts on the consumer segment that your particular wine appeals to.

SPAIN

In a study of Spanish consumers in 2011, ‘it is matching food’ was found to be the most important attribute, followed by designation of origin, then ‘I tasted it previously’, grape variety, and country of origin. Vintage and ‘someone recommended it’ were of less importance and brand name and ‘I read about it’ were found to be not at all important and as expected, label design was the least important attribute when consumers had to choose a wine. Price was found to be unimportant when consumers were selecting premium red wines, as they expected the price to be higher and as a result paid more attention to other attributes (11).

ITALY

In 2008 it was found that direct, personal and sensorial experience are the most important attributes when consumers select a wine. Certain elements that influence the choice of consumers include attractiveness of label, variety of grapes, brand and region of origin. As expected, the impact of these attributes differ significantly depending on certain variables, of which involvement towards wine, frequency of consumption and geographical province seem to be the most influential (9).

CANADA

Using a trained panel to generate sensory attributes for 6 Canadian wines combining it with the preference data of consumers, a research group was able to identify the drivers of liking for these wines, in other words, identify which sensory attributes are responsible for a consumer liking a specific wine. For the Chardonnay wine, fruity, spicy, vanilla and oak aromas were identified, while vanilla and oak characters were drivers of liking in two red wines. When wines were evaluated in a blind tasting, two groupings of sensory characteristics were identified. When additional information of the wines was provided, a third grouping was identified. This reveals that extrinsic cues can affect the sensory experience of a consumer (14).

In a study of the most influential attributes in different countries, including Australia, UK, China, Germany and Israel, ‘I tasted the wine previously’ and ‘someone recommended it’, were always amongst the top three most influential attributes (19). This means that promotional activities allowing consumers to experience your wine before purchase could significantly influence the buying potential of your wine.

As previously mentioned, the importance of these attributes differs among market segments. Two factors that play a significant role in segmenting consumer preference are gender and age.

Gender

Women:    rate colours, images, pictures and logos higher than men
find black labels significantly more confusing, hard to read and too much information
consider wax seals an indication of freshness and foil coverings an indication of quality
more reliant on shelf information than men who read about wine at home (9)
prefer wine in medium price bracket ($10-14) while men favour %25+ bracket (17)
more consistent in wine choice whereas men are less prone to buy same wine twice (17)

Men:           prefer to know significantly more about vintage and cultivar than women
favour red wine (17)

Age

Consumers can also be segmented based on their age: traditionalists (born 1900-1944), Baby Boomers (born 1945-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1976) and Generation Y or Millennials (born 1977-2000). There are distinct differences between the purchasing behaviours of the different segments (17). Because consumers in the different segments drink wine for different reasons, a winemaker needs to understand the motivation of the consumer in order to adjust marketing strategies according to meet the desired requirements of each segment (17). While the Baby Boomers are the most significant segment in terms of purchase and consumption, Generation Y is emerging as an important segment due to their increasing buying power. This generation is growing up in a media-savvy, brand-conscious world, and an almost unlimited access to information, seeing as nearly 100% of Generation Y is connected to the Internet. This generation is displaying the largest increase in consumption compared to the other segments, making this a growing market with increasing market power (22).

Besides Generation Y that is being identified as an emerging market, China is a country ripe for the picking.

China

Due to the sheer size of the consumer base, estimated at an astonishing 200 million people, China has become a prime export target. Furthermore, the entry of China into the World Trade Organization implies drastic reductions in tax and tariffs. Even though exports to China are down, consumption figures are still on the increase, with a further increase of 54% predicted for the period of 2011 to 2015. Consumption is estimated at 300 million bottles of wine per year and nearly all red wine. As for the Chinese consumer, they prefer red wines with meals and the sweeter the better. Any arguments about the health benefits of wine are well-received and whereas everyday wine consumption is almost non-existent, the primary reason for purchase is gift-giving. Chinese consumers like to sample wines before they buy, prefer discount-stores, are impulsive buyers and have no knowledge on Chine food pairings with wine. Some of the more important drivers of liking for consumers include the price, where $10-15 per bottle is preferred, followed by the $5-10 range, prior knowledge of the wine or a recommendation, followed by in-store tastings (8). The country of origin is also very important for Chinese consumers. These consumers also prefer prestige/stately labels and show preference for brands featuring flowers, gold, animals, dragons or even cartoon characters.

While there is an absence of a wine culture in China, consumers still need and want more information pertaining to wine and health, wine etiquette and finding good value wines and the major sources of this information have been identified as consumer reports, newspaper columns and tasting experiences in-store (8). As for their taste in wine, consumers prefer sweet red wines with aromas of berries, plums and cherries, while strong wood characters are also appreciated. Preferred varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel, as well as wines with one powerful aroma, rather than a bouquet. It is important to target those consumers that are not afraid to try new wines and enjoy the diversity of choice (8). In order to enter this market, cellars will need to produce mid-range red wine that matches Chinese food, as well as pricier red wines in elaborate packaging to address the tradition of Chinese gift-giving. In addition, having Chinese people to promote you brand will overcome both the language and culture barriers.

The SA wine consumer

The consumption per capita in South Africa is still much lower than in other producing countries and by researching the purchasing behaviour of South African consumers, it is possible to improve and understand the South African wine market (17). The average South African consumer spends approximately R200 to R299.99 per month on wine, 50% consume 1 to 12 glasses of wine per month and spend an average of R25 to R49.99 on a bottle of wine. The majority (53%) prefer red wine, with variety (40%), price (20%), origin/brand (10%), word of mouth (10%), wine awards (5%) and packaging (2%) being the most important attributes when choosing a bottle of wine. Preferred points of sale include the cellar door, liquor stores and the supermarket. A consumer survey in 2010 found that there is correlation between the purchasing behaviour of South African consumers and demographic variables. Similar to other countries, males spend on average more on a bottle of wine and had a higher wine knowledge compared to females. More males favour red wines and natural cork and consumers are willing to pay more for a bottle of red wine than white (17).

Conclusion

The only way to ensure success in the market, be it domestic or foreign, is to understand consumer preferences for wine flavours and extrinsic factors that influence purchase behaviour, consumption and repeat purchase (14). It is possible to select suitable target markets with the appropriate knowledge of consumer segments and the wine origins they prefer (12). Quality, good value and variety seem to be the most important wine features, while brand, distribution, price and extrinsic factors are better predictors of sales that the sensory characteristics of the wine (6).

It is possible to measure flavour-related chemical compounds in wine, generate descriptors with a trained panel and generate like/dislike descriptors with a consumer panel and use this information to identify what descriptors are responsible for consumer-liking and the aroma compounds responsible for them (15).

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