For Consumer Education and Convenience…

Riesling Taste Profile Gets High Marks from Trade and Consumers

The Riesling Taste Profile developed by the International Riesling Foundation (IRF) to help consumers predict the taste inside different bottles of Riesling was met with enthusiasm by both the trade and two separate groups of consumers—those who drink Riesling regularly, and those who had tried Riesling in the past but are not now Riesling consumers.

Those findings came from two related market research projects undertaken by Wine Opinions of St. Helena, CA for the IRF, with results presented by John Gillespie at the Riesling Rendezvous conference in Seattle.  The online trade survey involved wholesalers, restaurateurs, retailers, and others, while the two consumer segments were interviewed in online focus groups.  The overall purpose of the studies was to determine current perceptions of Riesling in the United States, its potential for growth, opinions about Rieslings from different regions, and the potential value of the Riesling Taste Profile.

The Riesling Taste Profile was developed to create a standardized, consumer-friendly way of knowing what taste to expect in different bottles of Riesling, from dry to sweet and in between.  This is determined not by natural residual sugar alone, but by its interplay with acid and pH.  Working with wine makers from many countries, with leadership from California wine journalist Dan Berger the IRF developed technical guidelines for four categories (Dry, Medium Dry, Medium Sweet, and Sweet), as well as a simple graphic for consumers to reference on back labels and point of sale materials.  Full information about the Riesling Taste Profile, including downloadable graphics, is available at the IRF web site (www.drinkriesling.com).

 Although only a small portion of the trade respondents had seen it due to its newness, when shown the graphic more than three-quarters (76%) said it would be helpful to consumers when making a purchase decision, and over half (53%) see it as a useful tool for staff in recommending Rieslings to consumers.  This is particularly relevant given the large staff turnover in restaurants especially, but also in retail settings.

Among regular Riesling consumers, the Riesling Taste Profile was well received and considered very helpful, especially for novices not familiar with wine in general and Riesling in particular.  Riesling non-drinkers were on balance positive about the Riesling Taste Profile, but expressed some concerns about the accuracy of the system and the possibility it would cheapen the wine’s image.  However, given that the major barrier to Riesling trial by non-drinkers remains the perception that Riesling is ONLY a sweet white wine, the Riesling Taste Profile was seen by most respondents as a positive contribution to consumer confidence in purchasing.

The IRF Riesling Taste Profile is appearing on more than 15 million bottles of 2009 vintage Riesling in the U.S. market in 2010, with that number expected to grow substantially in future years.  Australia’s Barossa Grape and Wine Association has endorsed the Taste Profile, and many Australian producers are expected to include in on their 2010 vintage wines to be released in the near future.  Winemakers in New Zealand and other countries have also adopted it. 

In some countries like Germany, at present it cannot be used on wines sold domestically, but Schloss Johannisberg has added it to its wines exported to the U.S.  In South Africa, where use on the actual label is also currently prohibited, Paul Cluver Winery is using it on its point-of-sale materials.  Samples of the Riesling Taste Profile’s use are shown on the IRF web site, as is a listing of wineries using it.

Additional major findings of the trade study:

  • Overall, the trade has great regard for Riesling, and understand its special attributes, versatility, and uniqueness.
  • The continuing widespread consumer perception of Riesling as only “a sweet white wine” remains a major barrier which may be overcome by the Riesling Taste Profile and other forms of education.
  • German and Alsatian Rieslings are most respected, with California and Australian wines viewed as the least expensive.
  • Continuing growth is expected due to increased consumer interest in Riesling and greater awareness of dry Riesling.

            Additional conclusions from the consumer focus groups:

  • Riesling drinkers buy various styles of Riesling in all price ranges, and see Riesling at all price points as a good value.
  • Riesling may benefit from the “ABC” movement (Anything But Chardonnay) spurred largely by the aversion to oaky wines.
  • Riesling drinkers consume it for a variety of occasions and at various times of year, especially in warmer seasons; enjoy it with food or along; and appreciate Riesling’s versatility.
  • Alsatian Riesling is highly regarded among Riesling drinkers.

The studies are available for free to “Friends of the Foundation”, and for $495 to others.  Information about becoming a “Friend of the Foundation” is in the “About Us” section of the IRF web site.

The International Riesling Foundation is the only global organization focused around a single grape variety, and includes a distinguished Board of Directors of more than 30 top Riesling producers from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States (several states).  Its mission is “to increase awareness, trial, and sales of Riesling wines through a comprehensive, integrated system of industry cooperation, research, trade education, and consumer communication.”

Media Contact: Jim Trezise, jimtrezise@nywgf.org, 585-394-3620