- Consumers were asked to rate origin, production, marketing and sensory characteristics when considering the quality of sparkling wine.
- Women showed a preference for "Prosecco", "Frizzante" and "Asti"; men and older consumers for "Champagne"; younger consumers for "Asti" and sparkling in cocktails.
- Sparkling wine is still considered a celebratory rather than an "everyday drink".
- Brand is most likely to be used to predict the quality of a sparkling wine and labels are still important indicators.
- Recent trends to promote origin as the harbinger of quality may be misplaced for the majority of Sekt consumers who consider taste and mouthfeel to play a bigger role. It remains paramount for sales at cellar door and in specialist retail.
- Grape variety is still important for Austrian consumers of still wine, yet is not meaningful for assessing quality in sparkling wine.
In Europe, origin has traditionally been considered the most important quality indicator for wines in general and for sparkling wines in particular. This is a development that has intensified in recent years, especially in countries of the Germanic system.
A few years ago, Austria introduced a three-tier quality system for domestic sparkling wines with the designation "Sekt", partly to be able to compete with products such as Champagne and Franciacorta in the upper tier of this system.
Most Important Quality Characteristics for Sparkling Wine
Whether this perception is also shared by consumers was the subject of a study. For this purpose, consumers were asked about characteristics that are important to them. The results were then combined with existing scientific findings in a second survey, where more than 400 Austrian consumers were interviewed.
As no detailes studies are available on sparkling wine, the study followed the findings of Martinez-Carrasco Martinez et al. (2006) and was based on the studies by Charters and Pettigrew (2007), which first categorised. the quality characteristics of still wine for consumers.
Four categories were used to evaluate the quality of sparkling wines : Origin, Production, Marketing and Sensory Characteristics.
- The origin category consists of information such as country of origin, region, name of the vineyard or site and grape variety.
- The production category includes the production method, ageing, vintage, shelf life and alcohol content.
- The marketing category is made up of price, image, place of purchase, packaging, awards, brand and awareness.
- Finally, the sensory characteristics include taste, mouthfeel, flavour consistency, colour, sweetness level and perlage. In order to confirm the characteristics, they were assigned to the four categories in a factor analysis.
Place of Purchase, Willingness to Pay and Frequency of Consumption
In addition, differences between various places of purchase such as retail, cellar door sales, specialist wine shops and restaurants, as well as willingness to pay and frequency of consumption were examined in more detail. The latter is of interest insofar as Austrian sparkling wine producers have recently been trying to position their products as an "everyday drink" and not only as a drink for special occasions.
Sparkling Wine Varieties
The survey also asked about the different types of sparkling wine that consumers usually drink. According to their sales rank and awareness among Austrian consumers, these sparkling wine types were defined as "Sekt", "Prosecco", "Frizzante", "Asti", "Champagne" and "mixed drinks & cocktails", such as "Aperol Spritz" and similar.
The respondents were 70 percent women. This confirms that women are the main target group for sparkling wine. Male consumers were much more difficult to attract to answer the survey, as the topic does not seem to be as relevant to them.
Prosecco, Frizzante, Asti
Of the types of sparkling wine proposed, "Prosecco", "Frizzante" and "Asti" were strongly preferred by women, while "Champagne" was chosen more by men. Younger respondents are more likely to consume "Asti" and sparkling wine in the form of "cocktails" - such as "Aperol Spritz" or "Hugo"-, while older consumers tend to prefer "Champagne".
More in Company than Alone
Furthermore, sparkling wine is not consumed on a daily basis: Less than 50 percent drink sparkling wine more than once a year and less than 30 percent at least once a month. These figures confirm the popular opinion that sparkling wine is still drunk more in social and celebratory situations.
Taste Instead of Origin
Contrary to expectations, the results of the survey indicate that origin is not the most important quality indicator for sparkling wine consumers. Instead, it shows that sensory characteristics such as taste and mouthfeel play a much greater role in the evaluation of quality.
Taste often takes a back seat in the marketing of sparkling wine compared to origin and especially compared to marketing aspects such as brand, price or packaging. However, the study does not confirm that elements such as price, image or packaging actually have a decisive effect on consumers - such an effect could not be shown.
- Image and brand are the most important quality cues.
- Brand is most likely to be used to predict the quality of a sparkling wine.
- Although price is often used to assess quality, it ranks only fourth within the results.
Do not Underestimate Labels
Younger and female sparkling wine consumers also base their prediction of quality on label and label design. This is in line with expectations; the results of several other studies indicate that label design is an important quality factor for still wines.
Origin-Paramount at Cellar Door and in the Specialist Trade
However, origin is especially relevant for cellar-door sales and for consumers who buy sparkling wines in specialist wine shops. It also has a pronounced importance among older consumers with advanced wine knowledge. For food retail, on the other hand, where 70% of all respondents buy their wines, this is not the case.
A surprising result was that among Austrian wine consumers, grape variety still plays the most important role in the purchase decision. However, it does not prove to be very meaningful for assessing the quality of a product category such as sparkling wine. However, the results suggest that there is a connection between willingness to pay and origin as an indicator of quality.
Sensory characteristics play a central role in the assessment of quality of sparkling wines.
Unlike still wines, the origin of sparkling wines only plays a role in the assessment of quality for certain consumers. Sensory characteristics such as taste and mouthfeel play a much greater role.