UK wine retailer Thresher is responding to customer demand and arranging its wines by price.

Following a year-long survey, the specialist drinks retailer is to stop displaying wines by region or grape – in the traditional manner – instead arranging them in order of price. An affordable Chablis, for example, could appear alongside a budget Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

‘Instead of the usual bewildering clutter of wine regions and grape types, we’ve re-invented a clean and bright modern environment with a crystal-clear new system of prices, tasting guides and labels,’ marketing director Kevin Styles said. ‘Customers will now find their favourite wines at great value, and laid out to encourage them to sample from a greater variety of styles.’

Tasting notes and food-matching tips will provide extra inspiration, while a ‘top ten’ area will give quick access to the store’s most popular brands.

The decision to change is the result of a customer survey, together with independent research. Both surveys showed the majority of buyers (63%) don’t care about country of origin and are stumped by grape variety. A quarter admitted to choosing wine purely on label design.

Many appeared too intimidated by the typical off-licence to experiment with unfamiliar wine styles, with three-quarters of those surveyed saying they tended to buy the same familiar wine again and again. However, 68% expressed a desire to be more adventurous.

Around 76% of respondents couldn’t say whether Pinot Noir is red or white, while 20% thought Chardonnay was red. And only half could say that Merlot and Beaujolais were both types of red wine.

So far, five of Thresher’s thousand-plus stores have made the change, with a further 25 to change soon.

Alongside tasting notes and tips, Thresher is hoping that jokes and references to popular culture will make buying wine more ‘fun’.

A spokesperson denied any dumbing down, saying that the stores will continue to source and sell higher quality wines. ‘It’s all about giving customers want they want,’ she said.

Thresher is part of the First Quench group, which owns 2,300 specialist drinks stores across the UK. Its Wine Rack chain of off-licences will continue to cater for the more specialist wine buyer.

Written by Liz Hughes4 October 2002