Five things the Wine Curmudgeon learned from last week’s wine premiumization post

wine premiumizationMost importantly: Consumers dislike wine premiumization, no matter what the wine business wants us to believe

Last week’s wine premiumization analysis kicked up more than a little dust in the cyber-ether – it was the most visited post on the blog in almost 2 ½ years. The comments and emails covered the spectrum, from people blaming me for wine’s problems (and that there wouldn’t be any if not for people like me) to those who offered their take on premiumization (pro and con) to those who thought I was spot on.

In all of this, I learned five things after writing the wine premiumization post:

1. Consumers dislike premiumization, no matter how much the industry insists otherwise. I wasn’t sure about this until I saw the reaction to the post, since all the data suggests we’re paying more for wine. So if we’re paying more, then we’re happy, right? But since fewer of us are buying wine, and those of us who still buy wine are buying less, how happy can we be?

2. Talking about wine prices is even more taboo today than it was when I started writing about wine in the late 1990s. There was a sense then that pricing was not to be questioned. Because, wine. I’ve never understood this, and my emphasis on cost vs. value has always annoyed people in the wine business. It annoys them even more today – and some are way past annoyance.

3. The economics of the post-modern wine business stink for almost everyone who isn’t Big Wine. I sympathize with those producers, and have agonized over their plight many times. But overpriced wine is overpriced wine, regardless of the reason why. Is any bottle of wine really worth $80 or $100? Or, as hard as it is to believe, thousands of dollars?

4. I taste thousands of wines a year, at all prices and from all over the world. My friends also taste thousands of wines a year, and we talk about what we taste. So how am I not qualified to say that wine quality is not what it was before the recession? One friend, a well-known wine judge and critic, will start his pinot noir rant without one nudge from me. Yes, technically the wines are OK — not oxidized, not tainted with VA and so forth — but are they interesting to drink? Are they fun to drink? Unfortunately, not nearly as many of them as in the past.

5. Wine writing, even in the second decade of the 21st century, is still expected to be positive and to sell wine. I had hoped the Internet would change that. I was wrong.

Photo courtesy of IWA wine blog using a Creative Commons license

2 thoughts on “Five things the Wine Curmudgeon learned from last week’s wine premiumization post

  • By Matt Zinkl - Reply

    Don’t let the bastards get you down! Keep up the good and very important work you do, us little guys need you!

  • By William Baker - Reply

    Jeff,
    I, too learned a few things after reading your post and the comments that followed. I certainly sympathize with producers who are getting squeezed in the current market, however, bad wine is bad wine. If vintners are indeed being forced to choose between solvency and quality, then it’s difficult to see a way clear to a healthy and prosperous wine market. Tariffs will only further reduce wine consumption, which will not benefit the US wine industry as a whole. It will also discourage newcomers from becoming wine consumers. Wine is, and has long been a commodity, a fact that some in the wine world refuse to acknowledge.
    The wine writers that demean wine critics like you think they alone are worthy to critique wine, when they are no more qualified than those they disparage. Please persist in the face of the unfounded criticism, and know that history is on your side. Wine is made for people, not people for wine.

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