Wine Purchase & Consumption of Michigan Wine Tasting Room Visitors

Understanding wine purchase and consumption behavior of consumers purchasing wine can be a strong asset as it encompasses the amount of money consumers are willing to spend at wineries.

Dan McCole and Don Holecek, Michigan State University

Editor’s note: This information was first prepared and published as part of the Northern Grapes Project.

As with any business, it’s imperative for the wineries to have a firm understanding of their customers in order to set prices, correctly develop and position products, determine the level of promotion required and provide high quality experiences to winery visitors. Acquiring and understanding this information can be a strong asset for the businesses involved in the production and distribution of wines as well as for consumers purchasing the wine. The wine purchase and consumption behavior of consumers is particularly interesting as it encompasses the amount of money consumers are willing to spend on a bottle of wine – both on an average basis and for special occasions – while also considering the varietals of wines people are consuming. We designed and conducted a survey to get a peek into the mind of wine consumers in Michigan.

Winery landscape. Photo by Joy Landis

Study Design

To best obtain the information relating to wine purchase and consumption behavior, the researchers surveyed visitors to Michigan wineries throughout summer and fall 2012. Researchers worked with Michigan wineries to identify tasting room visitors willing to participate in the study. MSU researchers then sent surveys to participants shortly after their visits either by mail or email.

The survey was developed following a series of interviews with Michigan wineries beginning February 2012, which helped the researchers accurately understand the research needs of wineries. Nearly 70 percent of the wineries that operate tasting rooms in Michigan were contacted about the type of information they would like to know about their customer base. These interviews also helped recruit potential research partners.

In total, 1,552 questionnaires were gathered by U.S. mail and email with an overall response rate at about 40 percent. This article is the second in a series of reports that covers questions of a particular interest as it pertains to tasting room operators.

Visitor’s Wine Consumption and Buying Habits

Of the 1,552 responses to the survey, 19 percent of respondents indicated they consume wine almost every day, and an additional 50 percent consume wine one or more times per week. The remaining 31 percent of respondents consume wine infrequently with 24 percent indicating they only drink wine one to two times per month and 7 percent reporting they only drink wine on special occasions.

The survey showed that on average, tasting room visitors purchased 7.4 bottles of wine from wineries during their trip to the region at an average price of $16.56. However, this price is more than most of the respondents typically pay for wine in their everyday lives. The survey results showed that 43 percent of tasting room visitors typically spend $9.00-$11.99 per bottle for everyday wine consumption at home. Another 29 percent reported that, on average, they spend $12.00-$19.99 while 22 percent reported they spend $6.00-$8.99 per bottle for every day wine consumption. Taking this information into account, the data suggests 69 percent of respondents, including the 4 percent who typically spend under $6 per bottle of wine, typically do not exceed $12.00 with the purchase of wine on a day-to-day basis. Another factor of the survey measured the amount respondents typically are willing to spend on what they determine as a premium bottle of wine for consumption at home. The majority of respondents (55 percent) reported they’re willing to spend $12.00-$19.00 on a premium bottle of wine, and 31 percent will pay $20.00 or more. This would indicate 86 percent of consumers would pay more than $12.00 for a premium bottle of wine, while also noting 69 percent are not willing to spend more than $19.99.

Table 1. Question: How often do you consume wine at home?

Only on Special Occasions

1 or 2 Times per Month

1 or More Times per Week

Almost Everyday





Table 2. How many bottles of wine did you purchase at the wineries?















Table 3. What was the average price per bottle for the wine you purchased at the wineries?

Less than $10

$10 - $12

$13 - $14

$15 - $16

$17 - $20

$21 - $25

$26 +








Table 4. How much do you typically pay per bottle of wine for consumption at home?


Less than $6

$6 - $8.99

$9 - $11.99

$12 - $19.99

$20 or more

Everyday consumption






Premium Bottle






One could surmise from the results of the data that the average consumer is looking to spend $9.00-$11.99 per bottle on an everyday basis, which increases to $12.00-$19.00 for a premium bottle. Although there are respondents who fall both higher and lower in the scale of spending habits, the presentation that fits the average consumer generally falls within that range, unless otherwise determined on the basis of economical demographics, brand loyalty or any other fiscal anomaly determined by the consumer.

The data suggest the nature of the respondents’ spending habits is altered when shifting from purchasing a bottle of wine or premium wine for consumption at home to purchasing a bottle of wine when eating out on a typical evening. Although 69 percent of respondents reported they would not spend more than $12.00 for a bottle of wine for everyday consumption, 40 percent of respondents reported they’re willing to spend $20.00-$29.99 per bottle while eating out on a typical evening. In fact, 65 percent of the people who responded to the survey indicated they typically spend more than $20.00 for a bottle while eating out on an average evening. This number further expands when taking a look at what respondents spend, on average, while eating out for a special occasion. The data shows 83 percent of respondents typically spend more than $20.00 for a bottle of wine during a special occasion. It is clear people are willing to spend more for a bottle of wine when they are eating out and on special occasions.

Table 5. How much do you typically pay per bottle of wine when eating out?


Less than $20

$20 - $29.99

$30 - $39.99

$40 - $49.99

$50 or more

Typical Evening Out






Special Occasion






Visitor’s Preferred Wine Habits

The surveyed respondents also were asked to report their preferences as it pertains to the types of wine they are consuming. Choices included: dry red wines, dry white wines, pink/rose wines, sweet red wines, sweet white wines and sparkling wines. Results showed that 31 percent of tasting room visitors reported their wine consumption revolves around dry red wines, ahead of sweet white wines at 21 percent and dry white wines at 19 percent.

Table 6. What percent of your overall wine consumption consists of the following types of wines?

Dry Red Wines

Dry White Wines

Pink/Rose Wines

Sweet Red Wines

Sweet White Wines

Sparkling Wines








The study showed there’s a strong correlation between the amounts of money consumers are willing to spend on wine in relation to different situations in life. When judging a bottle of wine for purchase in everyday consumption versus consumption at a restaurant or for a special occasion, consumers are willing to stretch their budget to best relate to the situation at hand. The same appears to be true for the price consumers are willing to pay at the winery, though it’s not clear why. Do tasting room visitors pay more for wine at wineries because they consider it a premium wine? Do they pay extra because it is local? Or do they pay a higher price for a bottle to help them remember a good experience they had at the winery? Perhaps future research can address these questions, but in the meantime, it seems clear from this study that respondents have different spending habits for different situations. Fortunately for wineries, especially ones with high per-bottle production costs, one of those situations is a visit to the tasting room.

Photo credit: Joy Landis, MSU