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Commentary | 1 Wine Dude - Page 12

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What’s Next, Le Bastard Surpoids? (Consumers Might Pay More For Difficult-To-Pronounce Wines, So NPR Thinks You’re A D-Bag)

Vinted on July 31, 2012 binned in best of, commentary, wine news

First, let me say that I normally love NPR. In fact, I consider not having an opportunity to listen to NPR news during the morning commute as the thing that I miss the most about having a traditional 9-to-5 job. But when NPR runs a story titled “Fancy Names Can Fool Wine Geeks Into Paying More For A Bottle,” I cringe.

NPR’s story quotes Christopher Tracy, Channing Daughters Winery’s talented winemaker (for more on Tracy and his wines, check out the coverage of my 2009 trip to LI wine country), but only as a setup for introducing “difficult for Americans to pronounce” grape varieties like Blaufrankisch, and en route to covering the results of a marketing study performed earlier this year by Antonia Mantonakis, a wine researcher at Brock University in Ontario. As reported by NPR:

"Participants not only reported liking the taste of the wine better if it was associated with a difficult to pronounce winery name. But they also reported about a $2 increase in willingness to pay," Mantonakis says.

What’s more, apparently the more that test subjects knew about wine (or at least told Mantonakis they knew about it), “the more easily they got duped into thinking difficult wine names equaled pricier wines.” In other words, we expect Fat Bastard to be inexpensive, but not Le Bastard Surpoids.

I love NPR, but I hate this kind of reporting. I hate it because while there might indeed be meat on the bones in Mantonakis’s study for marketers to explore, the media angle instead is to jump on the all-wine-pros-are-douchebags bandwagon, and throw on non-pro wine geeks as well.

So you know what? Screw NPR for doing that. Screw them, because we wine geeks are not the problem; if a few of us thought fancy names equated to higher prices, than so what? Shouldn’t we be excited that the wines were actually less expensive than we thought? We need more people being excited about wine and getting all hot-and-bothered over those fancy names, not less. The media implication in NPR’s coverage that those wines are somehow bad or cheap and therefore shouldn’t be on the radar of wine geeks is itself insulting to the producers, regions, and wines involved (let alone to the people). And I won’t even get started on the “what constitutes ‘wine geek’ from this study?” arguments.

If you think I’m over-reacting, I invite you to watch coverage of Mantonakis’ experiment and then listen to the NPR coverage that followed, both embedded below after the jump, and then tell me if you think I got it wrong. In the meantime, I’ll go back to my temporary NPR boycott…

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Wine + Digital: If This Doesn’t Blow Your Mind, You’re Not Paying Enough Attention

Vinted on July 3, 2012 binned in commentary, wine 2.0, wine industry events

My friend Paul Mabray, of Vintank, recently gave a keynote address at an event held in Dijon, France, called “The Perfect Storm: How digital tools are forever changing the way we sell and market wine.”

I didn’t attend (alas), and I’ve no affiliation with the event apart from a random one: its organizer (another friend, Eve Resnick), showed a photo of me when presenting her findings from a recent study of U.S. and Chinese wine bloggers (see inset below – ironically, that picture was presented adjacent to text describing the average wine blogger, and apart from being male I don’t actually meet the rest of the criteria on that slide!).

Anyway, I’ve been beating a similarly-toned drum to the one that Paul has been sounding when it comes to how to approach wine online, so it’s nice to see that Paul’s keynote struck a resonant chord with the attendees in Dijon (with a few tweeting that the figures and ideas Paul presented “blew my mind”).

What I sincerely hope is that Paul’s slide deck strikes a similar chord with wine brands here in the U.S., because the fact is if Paul’s presentation doesn’t blow your mind, then you are not paying enough f*cking attention to what is going on in and around the wine business right now.

Mind-blowingness embedded below for your enjoyment – and if you’re in the wine biz, please do yourself a favor and read EVERY slide; then go out and be awesome. Paul’s deck clearly demonstrates in the included figures alone that the time to debate whether or not your online social presence is important is long, long past. That time is much better spent on testing those online waters, connecting with your consumers, and finding out what does -and doesn’t – work online for you and your brand.

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Infinite Substitution Means That Without A Unique Wine Brand Message, You’re Screwed

Vinted on May 30, 2012 binned in commentary, wine buying

My friend Rémy Charest has been reporting on events from the London Wine Fair over at PalatePress.com, and one of his recent reports really struck a chord with me.

What stood out for me was the concept of “infinite substitution” introduced to Rémy during one of the conversations that he had at the Fair. To the tape (emphasis mine):

Dan Jago, category director at Tesco, the supermarket chain that is also the largest retailer of wine in the United Kingdom, pointed out that in the wine world, a major difficulty is what he called “infinite substitution”. “There is always another product that will do the trick, in any shop. And if you do anything new, there are 45 others that will jump in and do the same thing”, he summed up, pointing out how most customers in supermarkets or large wine stores pick bottles rapidly, to get a price point and taste profile.

This stood out for me because Jago effectively summed up the vast majority of wine brands available right now in the U.S. For a sense of the volume we’re talking about here, Rémy mentioned a conversation he had with another friend of mine (damn, this wine world really is small!), Nomacorc’s Jeff Slater, who told him “there are something like 700 different wines in an average US supermarket.”

It sums up the vast majority of the 1200 or so bottles of wine samples that have overtaken my basement, and if they’re any indication of the U.S. wine market at large (and I’d certainly argue that they are), then the average wine consumer has learned something very important about how to shop for wine, something retailers have picked up on and have already factored into their stocking approach:

Most wine brands, within certain flavor profiles, taste the same and are priced the same; and so they are effectively interchangeable. And that is bad news for a lot of wine brands….

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Are Petrol Notes In Aged Riesling A Fault? (Thoughts On A Clare Valley Master-class)

Vinted on May 22, 2012 binned in commentary, on the road

“I’m going to be honest with you, that smells like pure gasoline.”

We’re not talking about Sex Panther here, people – but we are talking about something that is quite pungent… in a good way…

Riesling. Specifically, a factor that many consider to mark some of the best aged Riesling wines on the planet: an aroma reminiscent of petrol, or vinyl, or rubber. It’s a marker that I’ve encountered in many a fine aged Riesling, including one that has come from arguably the best vintage of the 20th century from arguably world’s best producer of the stuff.

During my recent jaunt to Australia, the group of East Coast Sommeliers with whom I was traveling was treated to an in-vineyard pruning lesson followed by an in-office Clare Valley Riesling Masterclass, headed by Taylor Wines’ Chief Winemaker Adam Eggins. [ Editor’s note: if you enjoy the wines of Taylors  (known as Wakefield in the U.S.), then you should silently hope that none of the grapes for future vintages hail from the vines that we mauled that day ]. Like most good Aussies, Eggins is quick-witted, opinionated, and not afraid to hide those opinions even when actually he’s trying to hide them. But even Eggins didn’t quite reveal his hand when he shared with us a French report on the Riesling/petrol phenomenon (shared below, emphasis mine):

With time, Riesling wines tend to acquire a petrol note (goût petrol in French) which is sometimes described with associations to kerosene, lubricant or rubber. While an integral part of the aroma profile of mature Riesling and sought after by many experienced drinkers, it may be off-putting to those unaccustomed to it, and those who primarily seek young and fruity aromas in their wine. …the German Wine Institute has gone so far as to omit the mentioning of “petrol” as a possible aroma on their German-language Wine Aroma Wheel, which is supposed to be specially adapted to German wines, and despite the fact that professor Ann C. Noble had included petrol in her original version of the wheel.”

Another way of saying that, is that Riesling’s petrol aroma is a fault.

But is it, really?

The answer, I think, is an emphatic NO

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