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May 21, 2010

Research firm comes under fire for describing fine wine as anything above £10.

Wine Intelligence sparked a lively debate during its seminar on Fine Wine Intelligence: Who drinks expensive wine in UK, US and Switzerland, after describing fine wine as "anything not mainstream" and "above £10.

Speaking at the London Wine Fair, the research firm defined luxury drinkers as those who spent UK£10+, US$25+ and Switzerland CHF25+.

The audience complained that Wine Intelligence had "lowered" the fine wine bar.

Delegate Tim Hall, director of Scala School of Wine, said: "Fine wine is much narrower than your description of any wine above £10.

"Wine connoisseurs would not describe anything below £30 as fine wine." 

But Lulie Halstead, chief executive of Wine Intelligence, said: "It is not up the wine industry to define what a fine wine is. It is too easy for us to be blinkered.

"We have described it as anything beyond mainstream. Most importantly it is what the consumer understands to be a fine wine."

In March, Wine Intelligence surveyed 3,900 regular wine drinkers via Vinitrac and defined two groups - regular luxury wine buyers (monthly or more) who are "affluent and exclusivity seekers" and occasional luxury wine buyers (yearly to bi-monthly) special occasion lovers.

They found that the luxury wine drinkers made up 12% of the consumer base but represented 60% of luxury wine sales by value. This group continued to spend during the economic downturn and typically spent in the super-premium to luxury segments. They were in search of exclusive or limited edition wines and wines had to be aged.

The occasional wine buyers made up 88% of the consumer base but only 40% of sales by value. They purchased in everyday to premium segments and were in search of classic wines, seeking reassurance by heritage and provenance. Ageing of wine was not important. The economic downturn affected their spending habits.

The consumers thought good quality wine can come from any wine producing country with France still being the number one choice.