A recent survey by Wine Intelligence – “the global company dedicated to supporting wine businesses and associations through consulting, branding & market research,” I’m told – brings good and bad news for the British wine industry. On the plus side there are more regular wine drinkers than previously, with 28 million adults admitting to drinking the stuff at least once a month, five million more than in a similar survey in 2007. On the downside, those 28 million people drink wine, on average, 9.5 times a month, down from 11 three years ago. That still means (taps calculator for a while) that each month there are 266 million wine-drinking experiences, up by 13 million from 2007, which adds up to rather a lot of wine. Meanwhile the average spend on a bottle of wine to drink at home has risen in the same period by 29p, from £4.69 to £4.98, which given that excise duty has risen by 33p means we’re actually spending a few pence less on the wine than we were doing in 2007.
The report actually says lots of other things, but seeing as it costs £2,500 a copy I’m going to stick to what’s in the press release.
With the population at around 61,792,000 the last time the government took a guess, this all means that 45.3% of British grown-ups drink wine regularly. It also means that more people drink wine than, say, watched the World Cup final (18.4m people, on average, this year), or go to the cinema (only 18% of Britons go once a month or more), or are married (21.7m people, according to data from 2005). The number of wine drinkers is only fractionally smaller than the number of people who vote in general elections (29,691,380 this year) and totally dwarves the number who go to church (7.6m people go at least once a month, 12.6m once a year).
In other words, there’s a lot of us doing it. Wine is big. Statistically (this is a sentence I may come to regret), wine is bigger than Jesus. But however much we enjoy it, we don’t tend to seek out information about it. We are happy to drink in ignorance. Decanter, the country’s only mainstream wine-focused consumer magazine, has a UK circulation of around 22,500. That’s not many more than the 21,084 astrology fans who read the BBC’s Sky at Night magazine. More people get the Warrington Guardian, or the Rotherham & South Yorkshire Advertiser. Many fewer people go to the cinema regularly than drink wine, but the country’s biggest-selling film magazine, Empire, sells 179,000. Wine critics in the national press get a fraction of the space afforded to movie reviews, or fashion, or the extra-marital proclivities of footballers.
The wine industry, demonstrably, is a very long way from being in crisis. But with so much interesting stuff to know, so many stories to tell, it would be good if people could become interested in more than simply consuming the stuff.