New Study Reveals Wine Industry Suffers 'Curse of Orson Welles'

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Vintage date on the label a source of consumer confusion.

A national survey of U.S. wine consumers released today shows that most people who enjoy wine don't know what the vintage date on a wine label means, and many cling to the belief that older is always better when it comes to wine.

The study of 429 wine drinkers was commissioned by the California Association of Winegrape Growers and performed by Wine Opinions, a research provider to the U.S. wine industry. A principal finding of the survey was that while 71 percent of U.S. wine drinkers feel that vintage dating of wine is important, few understand it. Only 33 percent of wine drinkers correctly believe that a vintage date on a wine label refers to the year the grapes were harvested. Fully 37 percent think that the vintage date refers to the year the wine was bottled, while 17 percent believe that vintage is the year the wine was bottled and 12 percent are undecided.

"The only thing worse than what consumers don't know about vintage dating is what they nonetheless believe," said John Gillespie, founder of Wine Opinions. "From the time Orson Welles intoned the famous line for Paul Masson in the 1970s: 'We will sell no wine before its time,' people have maintained the notion that when it comes to wine, older is better. Unfortunately, such a belief can lead to poor choices of wine and disappointment with a purchase."

Christian Miller, who directs research operations for Wine Opinions, notes that most wine drinkers still believe that all wines get better with age. "We asked consumers whether they would choose a wine that was one, three, or five years old if they were to purchase a moderately-priced white wine for a casual dinner," Miller explained. "Only 16 percent chose the most recent vintage, 28 percent opted for a wine three years old, and 44 percent chose the five year old wine. If they were buying Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc most of those picking the oldest wine would be picking the one least likely to please them."

More survey results can be found on the Wine Opinions website –

Wine Opinions is an Internet-based research company focusing on the attitudes, behaviors, and taste preferences of U.S. wine drinkers. With its proprietary Core Wine Drinker Panel, the staff of Wine Opinions performs the most relevant, penetrating and timely research and analysis of consumer tastes and trends in the industry. More information on the services and publications of Wine Opinions can be obtained by contacting info @

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John Gillespie
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