Pat Nolan Blog

‘Terroir’ – French horror genre or dog breed?


Some 30% of British people questioned in a recent wine survey believe ‘terroir’ to be a genre of French horror film while 28% insist that it’s a breed of dog.

Though Britons drink a staggering 22 million bottles of wine each week, new research from the UK’s Wine & Spirits Education Trust reveals significant gaps in Britons’ knowledge of one of their favourite drinks.

The research, commissioned by the WSET, was conducted among 1,500 British adults by Ginger Research and it found that a third of respondents chose a bottle of wine simply because they liked the label while a further one in 10 have bought a wine because the name sounds “classy”.

The research, commissioned to mark the launch of the WSET’s 50th Anniversary and its first-ever global Wine Education Week, also discovered that the term ‘corked’ proves puzzling to many. 37% of respondents believed it to mean that broken pieces of cork are in a bottle of wine while 7% believed it to mean the drinker has had “one glass too many” rather than that the wine has reacted with the cork and smells of damp cardboard.

Sauternes proved similarly baffling. 7% thought it was a planet in our solar system while one in five named it as a continental beach resort. However 29% ascribed it to a type of Orange with fewer than half (43%) knowing it’s a sweet dessert wine.

Despite these gaps, it’s clear that Britons are keen to improve their wine knowledge, states WSET.

“While a quarter of the study participants confess to knowing ‘absolutely nothing’ about wine” it states, “over half (51%) would like to learn more about wine, with one in five fearing that they’re stuck in a wine rut and more than a third (35%) tending to stick to a few different types of wine.”

But when it comes to learning more about wine, 34% say they simply don’t know where to start while 28% think it’s all too complicated. 17% have been traumatised by “snooty wine waiters”.

Interestingly, men are much more likely to find the whole topic too large and intimidating (34%) compared to 28% of women.

“It’s encouraging to see that so many Britons are keen to gain more knowledge about one of their favourite drinks” said Ian Harris, Chief Executive of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, “and Wine Education Week is the perfect time to do just that.”

The WSET research also found that:


  • though women were more likely to get the questions about wine terminology right men were twice (12%) as likely as women (6%) to claim a good knowledge of wine


  • while eight percent of Britons say they have a “good knowledge” of wine and 12% say they “know their way round a wine list”, 13% say they can “talk a good game but actually know nothing”


  • when it comes to serving wine with food only 28% have successfully tried to “pair” a wine with food to get the best flavours out of both


  • 17% have attempted food and wine pairing but say it was a dismal failure while 55% admit they wouldn’t know where to begin to make the right choices


  • over a quarter of people say they’ve bought an expensive wine to show off to family or friends.


  • surprisingly rosé is officially Britain’s favourite wine colour, picked by 36% of the 1,500 respondents, beating white (35%) and red wine (27%)


  • familiarity seems to be key as 34% of Brits said that the top reason for choosing a wine was because they’d drunk it before while 32% take friends’ recommendations


  • regionally, Norwich emerged the wine-loving capital of the UK, with 16% of people saying they know a lot about wine, beating London (14%) while Edinburgh emerged as the wine novice capital (2%)


  • the younger generation sees itself as being much more knowledgeable about wine, with 20% of them claiming some knowledge compared to just 6% of (more modest) over 60s.


  • 29% chose a wine “because it was the price I wanted to pay” while 25% chose it “because it was the cheapest I could find” with 19% picking their wine “at random”.


WSET’s Wine Education Week in the UK kicked-off with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for wine-lovers to help break a Guinness World Record for the largest-ever recorded sommelierie lesson.

Indeed, throughout the entire Wine Education Week over 450 events took place in 45 countries around the world including Ireland.


“Terroir?... Well it could be… The nose is definitely ‘wet dog’…”.

“Terroir?… Well it could be… The nose is definitely ‘wet dog’…”.


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