Survey reveals only seven per cent of Canadians feel buying wine is easy

Increased purchases during holiday season spell need for more knowledge

MISSISSAUGA, ON, Nov. 24 /CNW/ - The holiday season is approaching, bringing with it celebrations, entertaining and gift giving. It also means increased wine purchases for 46 per cent of Canadians according to a recent survey commissioned by E. & J. Gallo Winery and carried out by Angus Reid Strategies. With more Canadians buying wine, but only seven per cent feeling that it's easy, the survey results demonstrate a thirst for more knowledge, according to wine expert Kevin Lefort, Fine Wine Manager at E. & J. Gallo Winery.

"December is peak wine buying season with more consumers seeking the perfect bottle to serve at holiday meals or give as gifts. This survey shows that we're feeling the added pressure," says Lefort. "Canadians are lucky to have a wide variety of wines available in stores across the country, but for some, more choice brings with it even more stress."

Having travelled the globe, visiting vineyards from California to Australia and most regions in between, Lefort has made a career of bringing knowledge directly from winemakers to Canadian consumers, restaurateurs and sommeliers. For the 44 per cent of Canadians surveyed who indicated they feel adventurous when buying wine, Lefort urges that consumers needn't be wine experts to make fail safe choices that deliver a sense of adventure.

"I'm encouraged by the emerging trend in Canadians daring to be adventurous in their wine choices, but I understand the challenge they face, especially during the holidays when the wine stakes are higher and there's more confusion," says Lefort. "Consumer tastes and behaviours have changed drastically in recent years. The old rules of wine pairing are out the window. There's a renewed focus on value for money and traditional holiday meals now include exotic flavours and cuisine. I've found that even though consumers are looking for adventure, they need help to make sense of it all to make confident choices."

Holiday wine tips to buy and serve with confidence

Lefort offers expert tips to help consumers along their holiday wine buying adventure from store to table.

    
    -  Look to popular new world regions like California and Australia that
       offer good value and are renowned for crafting approachable, food-
       friendly varietal wines, that pair with a range of holiday foods and
       are crowd pleasers.
    -  Consider the occasion and purpose of any wine purchase and always have
       a budget in mind. An intimate dinner may warrant a special selection
       while an open house generally calls for softer, easy-to-drink wine
       styles that are easy on the wallet.
    -  Part of the wine adventure is building knowledge - refer to a local
       wine merchant or in-store product consultant, get recommendations from
       family and friends, or check out wine reviews online or in newspapers.
    -  Opt for variety at the holiday table. Don't pin all hopes on one wine
       to please everyone. Open a few bottles in a range of red, white, rose
       or sparkling styles to encourage guests to experiment and find their
       own favourites.
    -  With the emergence of new flavours and regional cuisine, the old
       'white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat' rules are
       limiting, so try to match the weight of the wine with the weight of
       the food. Some holiday-inspired suggestions include:
       -  Oven roasted turkey: a fruit-forward, new world-style Pinot Noir or
          a buttery, oaky Chardonnay
       -  Roast prime rib with wine gravy: a full-bodied red, like Cabernet
          Sauvignon from warm climate regions like California or Australia
       -  Baked ham: an off-dry rose or White Zinfandel
       -  Leg of lamb: a hearty Shiraz or Zinfandel
       -  Grilled seafood: a light, crisp white, like Pinot Grigio or
          Sauvignon Blanc
    

Wine gift giving: when is the price right?

Wine is a popular holiday gift choice because it's versatile and convenient so it's not surprising that 68 per cent of Canadians surveyed feel compelled to spend more on a bottle of wine when it's for a gift.

"Consumers usually know how much they want to spend on a wine gift, but it's a lot harder for the average wine buyer to understand what they should be able to expect from a higher priced wine," says Lefort. "For consumers looking to spend wisely, wines between $15 to $20 are a safe bet, they're complex and balanced, offering great gift potential."

According to Lefort, wines in this price range offer more complexity and often times, aging potential, because they are generally sourced from smaller, more site specific regions or vineyards and are made in lower volumes, ensuring more intense flavours.

"Red wines over $15, for instance, are often fermented in oak, which is an investment in winemaking that can add intensity of flavour and allow a wine to evolve over time," says Lefort. "Or, the grapes may be sourced from award winning regions, like Sonoma County in Northern California for example, which is renowned for producing a variety of consistently great red and white wines, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel among them."

Ultimately, Lefort encourages Canadians to embrace new and adventurous wine choices amongst their tried and true favourites when entertaining and gift giving this holiday season.

Interview opportunity

Wine expert Kevin Lefort is available for phone interviews to provide tips and recommendations to make buying wine easier this holiday season. Topics include: great gift wines, how to choose and serve wine for a myriad occasions this holiday, and offer further perspective on this latest consumer poll.

More survey highlights:

Canadians' considerations when purchasing wine for the holidays

    
    -  31 per cent choose wines that they think will pair nicely with the
       meal they are serving
    -  29 per cent will be sure to have red, white and sparkling wines to
       offer guests
    -  41 per cent purchase familiar wines they have always served their
       guests
    -  29 per cent consider who will be at the party and choose based on
       guests' preferences
    -  29 per cent buy wines they are interesting in trying for the first
       time

    Canadians' feelings when buying wine

    -  12 per cent feel confused by the abundance of choices and are not sure
       how to narrow it down to pick the best bottle
    -  6 per cent feel anxious or intimidated
    -  19 per cent feel calm because they always buy their 'tried and true'
       wine to avoid making a mistake
    

About Kevin Lefort

Kevin Lefort is one of few wine-loving Canadians who has earned the prestigious Diploma of Wine from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) based in the U.K.

Lefort's professional experience and success began as a leading sales representative at E. & J. Gallo Winery and quickly led him to be chosen for the company's most prestigious internal fine wine training initiative - the "Fine Wine Ambassador Program." As a cornerstone of this program, Lefort received extensive one-on-one training alongside third-generation Gallo family members, Gina Gallo, winemaker, and Matt Gallo, winegrower, at the state-of-the-art Gallo Sonoma winery in Sonoma County, California. Lefort's professional development and education have enabled him to become one of the California wine industry's most knowledgeable representatives.

About the survey

From August 11 to August 12, 2009, Angus Reid Strategies conducted an online survey among 836 randomly selected Canadian adults who purchase wine and are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error - which measures sampling variability - is +/- 3.4%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery

E. & J. Gallo Winery has become the world's foremost winery in the art and science of grape growing and winemaking; and in the distribution and marketing of wines worldwide. Headquartered in Modesto, California, E. & J. Gallo Winery is the second largest winery in the world in terms of volume. Gallo International, with regional headquarters in Tokyo, London, Miami, Hong Kong and Toronto sells more than 12 million cases of wine in 93 countries. Gallo Winery remains a fully, family-owned business, with three generations of Gallo family members working within various facets of the company including winemaking, viticulture, production and marketing.

SOURCE E. & J. GALLO WINERY

For further information: For further information: or to schedule an interview with Kevin Lefort, please contact: Lauren Grant, Michele Enhaynes, PraxisPR, lauren@praxispr.ca, michele@praxispr.ca, (905) 949-8255 ext. 227, 229

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