The part that was most surprising was that the show’s theme centered around the Op-Ed-style piece I penned in mid-February, in which I posited that the wine industry as a whole has fumbled the ball when it comes to attracting the Millennial generation, as evidenced by multiple reports showing that wine in the USA is hemorrhaging those younger consumers and now needs desperately to staunch the bleeding, having failed at the preventive medicine part of hopping generational buying habits. It’s not all gloom-and-doom, of course; the wine biz is very good at some forms of consumer engagement, but I maintain that those forms work best with an older crowd.
Our discussion morphed from whether or not wine is losing the battle for younger drinkers, into both broader (wine biz writ-large) and more focused (impacts on the NY FLX wine scene) conversations, and now my minor dream of trying to sound intelligent during one of those super-cool, dignified NPR discussions has finally been realized. You can listen to that show here, or via the embed below (and then make fun of me in the comments). Make sure that you have NPR coffee mug in hand first (but you can, of course, fill it with wine… I’m not gonna judge…).
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…
But… you should know that, according to research very recently published in the journal Nature, our old pal resveratrol (a compound found in red wine, among other things) might not be the key to everlasting youth.
Anywaaaaaay… long-story-made-short, a 2006 Harvard study once found that resveratrol might increase production of proteins called sirtuins, which were found at the time to possible prolong the lives of obese mice. Good news for you red-wine-drinking obese mice out there, or so it was thought at the time.
Turns out, according to the findings being published in Nature, the initial study might have been flawed, and all this stuff around red wine/resveratrol/sirtuins prolonging life might have been a bit overblown. Bad news for you red-wine-drinking obese mice out there. And maybe also for GlaxoSmithKline, who paid over $700 million for the company that the initial study’s author David Sinclair founded to make a drug from the substance.
NPR.org has a great detailed report on all of the above, embedded below for your listening pleasure. I suggest relaxing with a glass of red wine while you listen to it – not because the red wine will make you live longer, but because the relaxing might help you live longer (or if not, at least help you enjoy the moment a bit more than usual).
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