Objective measures of Australian sparkling wine style and quality

Abstract

Sparkling wine represents a small but significant proportion of the Australian wine industry’s total production and a market niche for which there is growing consumer interest. This project employed a range of chemical and sensory analyses to profile the variation in composition, sensory properties and quality amongst (i) Australian sparkling white wines and (ii) Australian Moscatos. Consumer preferences for different styles of sparkling white wine and Moscato were also studied. Research outcomes enable industry to better understand the domestic sparkling wine market and provide insight which might inform production and/or marketing strategies, so as to influence consumer purchasing decisions and consumption behaviour.

Summary

The key objectives of this project were to characterise the relative importance of different segments of the Australian sparkling wine sector, to gain insight into consumer preferences for different styles of sparkling wine and their sensory properties, and to develop objective measures by which sparkling wine style and quality can be determined.

The data collected demonstrated the diversity in the sensory profiles of different styles of sparkling white wine and Moscato, and in the diverse preferences of different segments of sparkling wine consumers. Expert panel ratings confirmed, as expected, that sparkling wine quality is closely associated with prominent toasty, yeasty, aged/developed notes (i.e. attributes associated with yeast autolysis and lees aging typical of the traditional method of sparkling wine production). Irrespective of quality ratings, each of the sparkling white wines evaluated by consumers during acceptance tests were considered favourably by at least one of the consumer clusters identified by segmentation (based on individual liking scores). This suggests different marketing strategies might be needed to influence the consumption behavior and/or purchasing decisions of consumers for sparkling wines from different segments of the target market.

Diversity in consumer preferences was also evident following acceptance testing of Moscato wines. Although only two consumer preference clusters were identified, they had opposing preferences for the subset of Moscato wines.

Surprisingly, neither study identified meaningful preferences based on gender, age, frequency of sparkling wine consumption or wine involvement, despite previous studies suggesting sparkling wine is often considered a ‘female drink’ and/or symbolic of celebration and prestige to younger consumers. Several studies have shown consumers rely on extrinsic cues, country of origin and brand in particular, when evaluating the perceived quality and value of sparkling wines. Sparkling wine producers might therefore need to exploit factors such as geographical origin, occasion and self-worth when marketing sparkling white wines.

In the case of Moscato, and despite the findings of the current study, it seems likely that the sweet, fruity and refreshing characters typical of this segment of sparkling wine is likely to appeal to younger and/or female consumers, including the Millennials, because these sensory attributes are both familiar and approachable. Moscato could therefore be considered an entry level wine for consumers with limited wine experience; consumers whose wine preferences will continue to evolve over time, as they gain greater experience, knowledge and involvement with wine. Consumer purchasing decisions will continue to be influenced by extrinsic factors, so understanding consumers’ attitudes towards different sparkling wine segments, including any preconceived expectations of particular sparkling wine styles, remains the focus of ongoing research (being undertaken by PhD candidate, Naomi Verdonk).

Objective measures of sparkling wine and Moscato quality were more difficult to determine. Some markers for sparkling white wine quality that can be directly traced back to grapes were tentatively identified: aspartic acid and phenolic compounds. Other potential markers of quality were more likely to be production based.

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.