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How Sweet it is: Wine Industry Owes Sweet Wine Drinkers HUGE Apology!

New study shatters myths about wine consumers, uncovers opportunities for wine industry
October 15, 2010

A consumer study released today shows that physiology plays a major role in determining wine preferences and that White Zinfandel drinkers are often the most sensitive tasters shattering the myth that about sweet wine consumers. The study was conducted in conjunction with the Consumer Wine Awards at Lodi. Tim Hanni, Master of Wine and originator of the study, says, “We have uncovered a glaring error and misunderstandings by the wine industry that has lead to the disenfranchisement of millions of consumers and a significant loss of market share to other beverages.” 

The study reveals a major disparity between expert and industry opinions about wine quality and wine consumers. According to Dr. Virginia Utermohlen, MD, Associate Professor at Cornell University, individual differences in taste and smell sensitivity relate to a number of different aspects of personality, personal preferences and behaviors – including wine choices. Utermohlen teamed up with Hanni and they developed a means of segmenting the wine market into four basic phenotypes based on physiological and behavioral criteria.

“My passion is in finding the scientific reasons behind our personal preferences,” said Dr. Utermohlen. “To date, the industry message to consumers who prefer light, delicate and sweet wines is that they need to become more ‘educated’ and ‘move up’ to ‘higher quality wines’ such as dry wines. Our study demonstrates that physiological differences in human sensory anatomy are the driving force behind our wine choices and that the people with the greatest taste sensitivity may well indeed be sweeter wine drinkers and not the consumers of highly rated less sweet wines. The industry is guilty of alienating a large segment of consumers who frequently opt for other sweet beverages or even stop drinking wine altogether.”

Many industry professionals see this information as the means to introducing a more personalized approach to wine marketing. According to Dr. Jim Lapsley, co-editor of the highly regarded book Successful Wine Marketing, “It will require some major changes in attitudes, wine education and the correction of worn-out stereotypes and myths, but this finding offers the wine industry a great opportunity to develop an overlooked but large and accessible market segment and to expand wine consumption.”

The Wine Consumer Preferences Survey Summary can be accessed at

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