The New Wine Fundamentals
– by Tim Hanni

Tim Hanni - Master of Wine - New wine Fundamentals

gold gamma award winner 2012Understand and Celebrate Consumer Tastes for an Engaging and Profitable Wine Program

by Tim Hanni – Master of Wine

I am very excited to be sharing new wine consumer insights and wine program strategies, which have been generated from the consumer sensory and behavior research I have been conducting with the help of a growing list of colleagues, over the past years. My mission is to create a wine industry focused more on understanding, embracing, and cultivating all consumers – with no exceptions.

Wine consumers come in every shape, size, gender, and adult age, and from all socio-economic groups. Wines come in many colors, flavors, styles, and price points. Your bottom line and the enthusiasm of your service staff will both benefit from a wine program directed towards celebrating the diversity of wines, as well as from installing a training module focused on learning more about diverse guests’ expectations and needs. This new training component can then be combined with the development of a wine list that serves as a sales tool your staff will use to match the appropriate wine to individual guests. The bottom line results can be stunning.

Diverse Tastes and Diverse Wine Selections
The way to expand wine sales and promote a greater diversity of wine styles is by learning how to celebrate the diversity of wine consumer tastes and by acquiring a deeper understanding of individual consumer preferences. This strategy allows different wine valuation systems to coexist peacefully—valuation systems that are geared towards, and can be custom fit to, the wants and needs of different groups of consumers. An additional benefit of this strategy is that many service professionals will feel newly empowered because their own wine preferences are validated.

It may be hard to believe this to be the case. But consider the observations of Harvey Posert, the PR genius behind Robert Mondavi Winery and a long-time veteran of the wine industry, as he commented on the consumer wine preferences work I conduct with Dr. Virginia Utermohlen. Posert says, “I have spent myentire career in wine wondering what is wrong with me that I cannot stand dry, intense wines. Based on your studies, I now feel completely freed and vindicated.” He is one of the most sensitive tasters and yet cannot stand red wine – period.

A friend of mine says wine styles, fashion, and quality are largely dictated by the “tyranny of the minority”—a handful of wine critics (all of whom I respect, by the way). They wield an inordinate amount of influence and tend to not only favor but also reward dry, highly concentrated, high-alcohol, intense wines. This tyranny has resulted in the homogenization of wine styles around the world as everyone “vies for the points.” It has also stifled the efforts of vintners who favor delicate, lesser-known grape varieties, or who produce wine in lesser-known growing regions. The New Wine Fundamentals offers an antidote to this tyranny of the minority by providing your servers with a new understanding of wines and real-life wine preferences, and by providing new tools for communicating with your customers in ways that servers can understand, embrace, and sell.

So how can we sell a wider spectrum of wines to the largest, most diverse range of consumers? By taking a fresh look at the fundamentals and taking a new approach to wine marketing and communications. This fresh approach does not destroy any of the existing systems, yet will usher in a new era of better understanding the consumer’s point of view and experience of wine, thereby enabling us to match the right wine with the appreciative consumer.

The consumers are out there, there is plenty of wine to go around, and the time is ripe for change.

Wine Market Segmentation Based on Taste Sensitivity
I have been working with Dr. Virginia Utermohlen, MD, to define and segment wine consumers in a manner that will help the industry better understand consumer preferences and sell to the entire available wine market. Following is a glimpse at the work we are doing; the results of our research will be discussed in greater detail in the next installment.

We have developed a phenotypical approach to market segmentation that integrates the physiological (taste sensitivity and range) and the psychological (how our preferences change with learning and environment) dimensions, both of which affect consumer preferences, behaviors, and ultimately wine choices. Using this approach results in gaining a deeper understanding of key elements driving consumer choice and the ability to narrow down and target consumers with appropriate products, language, and messages.

You can view a video introduction of the New Wine Fundamentals on taste sensitivity and also download a free PDF copy of our summary of the Consumer Wine Preferences report at


Tim Hanni - Master of WineTim Hanni – Master of Wine

Tim Hanni is a wine and hospitality industry consultant, educator, and consumer researcher. He has worked in the wine industry for more than thirty-five years and is one of the first two resident Americans to successfully complete the examination for, and earn the credential of, Master of Wine. He is also a professionally-trained chef and a Certified Wine Educator accredited by the Society of Wine Educators.

Hanni is renowned for his unique perspective on food and wine, as well as his work on developing a better means for understanding consumer wine preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. He has lectured in over twenty-seven countries around the world on the topics of flavor balancing, sensory sciences, wine and culinary history.