Are There Only Four Types of Wine Drinkers?

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Master of Wine Tim Hanni's theory about vinotypes passes a research test.


If you’re thinking of giving your wine lists a fresh look based on trends, perhaps the work from researchers at Michigan State University will interest you. Wine drinkers can be grouped into four types of consumers according to hospitality scholars at MSU, whose data was published in the International Journal of Wine Business Research.

The researchers undertook the task of finding support or contradictions of the theory posited by Tim Hanni, MS. His theory pertains to what he calls “vinotypes,” the categories people fall into based on non-wine preferences and information. MSU researchers found Hanni’s thoughts and their results consistent across the board.

Hanni outlines four different vinotypes, each of which is personality-driven and correlates to different wine preferences, which he suggests are influenced by both genetics and environment and can change over time. Specifically, this paper tests whether the wine preferences of novice wine consumers can be predicted using their historic and current food and beverage consumption patterns and preferences.

Hanni’s categories are fairly basic: Sweet, Hypersensitive, Sensitive and Tolerant. Those identified as Sweet are at the top end of the scale in terms of sensory sensitivity. These wine consumers tend to be very picky not only about wines but also many other things in their lives, such as linens and the texture of clothing fabrics.Sweet types are defined as having a preference – day-in and day-out, and with whatever food there is – for sweet wines. Roughly 70% of the Sweet vinotype are female and 30% are male, according to Hanni’s thesis.

The next category, Hypersensitives, are similar to Sweets. However, though these consumers want something light and sweet they’re somewhat more open to trying new wines as long as they’re clean and simple.

Sensitives are in the middle of the wine-drinking scale. Adventurous and flexible, they’re a part of the largest segment, and are more apt to enjoy the widest range and diversity of wine styles. Sensitives are more likely to consider context when choosing a wine, and preferences run from delicate to full-bodied, dry white wines to a wide range of reds, particularly favoring those that are very rich and smooth but not too oaky or tannic.

Lastly, the Tolerants. These wine consumers tend to be people who consider themselves knowledgeable about wine and seek out big, bold flavors and full-bodied wines. Research also suggests that they’re decision makers and linear thinkers. The most enjoyed wine by this category is a rich-flavored red wine. People who connected most with this category also loved strong cheese and coffee.


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