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April 2006 Issue
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Wine survey yields surprise results

 Food and Wine

Living in South Australia - the premier wine State - does not guarantee superior knowledge of what makes "a good drop," a pilot study has found.

In a survey of 238 people by University of Adelaide Honours student Roberta Veale, 98% of respondents scored 50% or less in a 14-question multiple choice test to determine general knowledge about wine.

Half of the respondents believed that to let wine breathe meant simply to remove the cork in the bottle (as opposed to pouring it into a wine decanter), 45% of people did not know the influence of tannin on wine and most were unsure about matching wines correctly with food.

Almost half of those surveyed could not identify a wine that would improve with age and 42% did not know that chardonnay grapes were used to make champagne.

"Given the general nature of the questions that were asked, and the amount of familiarity that many South Australians have with wine, the low scores are very surprising," Ms Veale says.

The same group answered a multiple choice questionnaire about cheese, with 24% of respondents believing that quality camembert could sometimes "smell like old socks" (not true, say the experts). In both multiple choice tests, the "don't know" option was the most frequent answer.

The preliminary results of the wine and cheese study show that country of origin is the most influential factor in assessing quality - even over-riding personal tastes.

Respondents believed that France produced the highest quality chardonnay, the United States an average product and Chile a poor quality wine. For camembert, France was again cited as the most likely to produce high quality, Canada average quality and Argentina poor quality, respectively.

"The findings show that most people have strong assumptions of a country - often incorrect ones - and that, coupled with price, they consider the two to be an accurate predictor of quality. They are often wide of the mark," Ms Veale says.

"Wine is a product that many people are intimidated by - particularly if it is expensive. If they don't like it they may believe that they lack an appreciation of the wine rather than conclude that it is not very good - and often it isn't!"

The next stage of the wine and cheese study will involve taste tests to determine if consumers are more responsive to the influence of price over taste.

Roberta Veale graduated with first class honours from the University of Adelaide, School of Commerce, in 2004. She was supervised in the pilot study by Professor Pascale Quester.

Story by Candy Gibson

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Roberta Veale
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