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Published:  23 July, 2008

Wine is the last piece of the jigsaw' and when it fits, it's absolute bliss'. This is one of the findings of research into Londoners' view of wine commissioned by Vinexpo in advance of its major exhibition in Bordeaux in June.

Vinexpo commissioned a study in five major cities - London, Paris, Frankfurt, New York and Tokyo - carried out by Gatard & Associs. The research was based on a series of two-hour qualitative focus groups led by a psycho-sociologist. The groups were made up of 25- to 40-year-old men and women from an AB social-professional background, who consume wine at least once a week, but who are not members of any wine clubs or in the possession of any specific wine knowledge.

Introducing the research last Thursday (31 March) in London, Jean-Marie Chadronnier, CEO of Bordeaux ngociant CVGB Dourthe/Kressman, said: Like it or not, 90% of wine drinkers are not "connoisseurs". They are "beginners or amateurs", and they have a different vision of the wine they like and talk about it in a different way [to connoisseurs]. 'Christian Gatard of the research company said: They are not connoisseurs and they are quite humble about their knowledge of wine. They get their information from the press and TV programmes.' Tim Blandford, head of business research at 2cv: research, said that he noticed general excitement among the London focus groups and it was difficult to keep them quiet'. He said Londoners felt increasingly European, with more travel and ownership of second homes. He said Londoners feel hard done by, being the hardest-working people in Europe, and that wine was incredibly important' at the end of the day in turning off work'. It is the last piece of the jigsaw. It helps put things in perspective, a mood changer - a little bit of Nirvana.' Blandford said that, having been the preserve of the middle and upper classes up to the 1980s, wine is now - thanks to the supermarkets - accessible to everyone and is part of the shopping, like milk'.

The various focus groups suggested that New Yorkers are still suffering from post- 9/11 syndrome', while Parisians are very tried and morose and are looking for something new, authentic and exciting'. Frankfurters are learning to be more modest' in Germany's current economic difficulties and are looking to restore their dignity. For Tokyoites, wine breaks the monotony of life and they see it as part of Western culture and civilisation.

After the presentations, freelance writer Chris Losh asked the panel whether the research showed that symbolism was more important to modern, mainstream wine drinkers than education. Michel Rolland said that it was difficult' to educate people and that, in France, people tended to drink one type of wine from whichever region they came from or were in. Chadronnier said people want to be familiar with wine but not necessarily knowledgeable. They just like the product.' He added that the move by supermarkets to rationalise ranges (see Harpers, 18 March and 1 April) was a good indication that they have to change and adapt to consumer expectations and make life simpler'.

By Christian Davis