Peter Sharkey - What sort of wine drinker are you?
As your eyes no doubt confirmed recently, over the past three decades, Britain has transformed itself into a nation of wine drinkers, an increasing number of whom actually understand what they're drinking and where it came from.
Gone are the days when a cheap bottle of plonk with a colourful label was considered the perfect accompaniment to a boil-in-the-bag Vesta curry. We're considerably more sophisticated nowadays. Indeed, when it comes to drinking wine, researchers believe most Britons fall into one of six categories.
First up are 'the entertainers' – couples who open a bottle most evenings and are prepared to try any wine variety, especially if it's on promotion.
Then there's 'the adventurers', people who know the difference between a Californian merlot and a New Zealand pinot noir, but are prepared to try anything, provided it's good.
Of course, we're always going to have the 'easily pleased' grouping, folks who harbour few preconceived ideas regarding wine, so they stick with what they're familiar with.
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Similarly, we all know 'Chardonnay girls': females who enjoy wine because it doesn't fill them up like beer. A bottle shared between friends is an essential addition to their post-work chats.
'The connoisseurs' appreciate that good wine should be savoured, not guzzled and are prepared to pay for a recognised vintage.
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And finally, there's 'the enthusiast', something of a traditionalist who isn't keen on New World wine. The enthusiast insists upon good quality French wine.
As the economic crisis continues to bite, however, the wine industry believes UK wine consumption will start to fall as consumers 'drink better and less'. The International Wine & Spirit Research's forecast predicts that between 2012-15, UK consumption will decline by 4.13pc. The process has already begun: in 2011, the UK fell from fifth position to sixth in the list of wine-consuming nations worldwide.
Despite this, the wine industry is cautiously optimistic. It maintains that Britons will continue to enjoy wine, though their habits may change and they'll buy better quality – but less of it.
Last week, Majestic Wine released impressive figures covering the nine-week trading period to January 2 which revealed that total UK store sales were up 8.4pc. It means that for the first 40 weeks of Majestic's financial year, like-for-like UK store sales growth was 2.7pc.
Majestic Wine has long been a well-run business, although it operates in a sector which is being squeezed particularly tight. To a degree, it relies upon discretionary expenditure which can be tweaked, halted or reduced at a moment's notice, a feature which has impacted upon its share price. Indeed, despite another sparkling performance from its online division, Majestic's perceived reliance upon discretionary expenditure has made investors understandably hesitant when it comes to buying its shares
While wave after wave of gloomy news washes over us all, it's difficult to ascertain which way the economic wind is blowing. Nevertheless, as we struggle to adhere to our new year resolutions, mindful of the euro's impending collapse and probable fallout, it's enough to make you think, 'well, another glass of wine won't do any harm.' Whether such an approach is enough to maintain the short-term value of Majestic's shares is, however, debateable.
Read Peter Sharkey's blog at www.mymoney24.co.uk