Forget what the pundits said. Forget what the what the experts claim to know. Instead, look at the most popular posts on the blog between November 2009 and 2010, and you'll see how consumers reacted to the recession. They traded down — a lot.
The most popular post, by a 2-1 margin in a year when more visitors came to the blog than ever before, was the 2010 Hall of Fame. This is not in itself unusual; the Hall of Fame post was the most popular in 2008 and 2009 as well. But that more people read it this year than ever before speaks volumes about the search for value during the recession.
And what says even more is the second most popular post: My 2008 entry on whether Barefoot wines are a good value or just cheap, which was the fifth most popular post in 2008 and fourth in 2009. That a 2-year-old post could improve its standing speaks to your desire to spend less money on wine but to still get something that professional and well made.
In fact, these results, taking into account their relatively small size and relatively unscientific sampling method, have convinced me that a major change has taken place in the wine business. The visitors here, courtesy of Quantcast, are exactly the kind of consumer the wine business lusts over. Almost three-quarters are college graduates (and 23 percent have post-graduate degrees); 65 percent have household incomes of more than $60,000 (and 35 percent are at $100,000 or more); and about three-quarters are 35 and older.
All of those numbers are well over the averages for the typical U.S. consumer, and Quantcast says the blog is among the top 25 percent of the 1 million blogs and Web sites it tracks. And if my readers aren't looking for $100 Napa cabernet, which the wine business says they should be looking for, then the wine business has some problems. More, after the jump:
How else do I know the wine business has changed? The Tormaresca post, which was second each of the first two years, dropped to 14th this year. It's not that the blog's favorite wine was any less popular; rather, that we had so many new visitors who were looking for something even less expensive.
The rest of the top 10:
3. The wine buying guide, which debuted in 2009, and also speaks to the need for advice on finding cheap, well-made wine (or the difficulty of finding well-written wine education material elsewhere.)
4. The Layer Cake shiraz review. This was a big surprise, since the Layer Cake used to sell for as much as $17 — which would seem to contradict the rest of the trends previously noted. But the wine has been selling for as little as $10 these days (thanks to the recession), and I'm guessing consumers were wondering if a wine that has been marked down so much can be any good.
5. The Costco piece, about whether the warehouse giant was using scores to determine which wines it would buy. This was the only non-wine post to make the top 10.
6. A 2-year-old review of Dancing Bull zinfandel, which is another surprise. Two-year-old reviews don't usually show up in Google searches. I guess I'll have to do a new review.
7. The eight-step program to buying wine, which was No. 8 last year.
8. A review of Los Rocas garnacha, a wine I didn't especially like.
9. The blog's visitor's guide, which has made the top 10 every year. Why more blogs and Web sites don't have something like this is beyond me, unless their goal is to confuse their readers.
10. The Cusumano Nero d'Avola review, part of my campaign to get Sicilian wine the respect it deserves. Thank you for putting this in the top 10.
The least popular post was about a Web site that listed restaurants that allow diners to bring their own wine, and the least popular wine review was for Rodney Strong chardonnay.