It was bad enough that the woman, standing in the Texas winery tasting room, proclaimed that Texas wine wasn’t any good, and that she suspected the Texas wine she was drinking came from California. What was worse was when she told the tasting room employee that she only drank cabernet sauvignon and malbec, and that she wasn’t going to drink this red blend because she wouldn’t like it.
What struck me, as I watched this scene unfold over Labor Day weekend, was that it was so wine ? the woman’s dead certainty she was correct, despite knowing nothing about what she was talking about; the refusal to try something different, because it was different; and the sense that the winery was trying to put something over on her.
And this doesn’t include the other foolishness I’ve seen this fall, like the woman at a Kroger Great Wall of Wine with $50 worth of beef in her cart who was agonizing over $10 cabernet sauvigon and who couldn’t have been more confused if she had been trying to read the Iliad in the original Greek. Or the bartender at a chi chi Dallas wine bar who treated me like I was an idiot because I wanted to talk about Texas wine and cheap wine.
Does that happen with any other consumer good? Only wine, and for that we have the wine business to thank. More, after the jump:
? Who needs education when we can make money playing to our customers’ fears and prejudices? I spent 20 minutes at Grapefest this year trying to convince a man who only drank $25 corporate cabernet that the world would not come to an end if he tried a quality $10 cabernet — and with almost no success. You’d have thought I was trying to talk him into walking naked down the street.
? Who needs education when we can make money marketing cute labels and clever names that have nothing to do with what’s in the bottle?
? As one blog visitor emailed me about a great cheap wine that befuddled him with the winespeak: ?How can it be any good when they describe it the way they do? What does beeswax taste like? How many people have ever tasted it
Yes, other businesses market that way, whether it’s Detroit implying that its cars will help you get hot chicks or Tide intimating that its detergent will make everyone in your family love you. The difference, though, is that those products deliver in a way wine doesn’t do often enough. Detergent really does clean clothes, and you can’t sell detergent that doesn’t. Cars work, and there are penalties if you sell one that doesn’t.
Wine, on the other hand, has no such requirement. Sell junk, but name it so that it appeals to women ages 21 to 34, and you’ll make a Hot Brand list. Make swill, but put just the right winespeak on the back label, and since the terms sound fancy enough, the wine has to be worth buying, doesn’t it?
Wine has become a $36 billion a year business using that formula, which is why we’re still using it. What I’ve never understood is why no one realizes how much bigger and more profitable it could be if we helped the woman I saw in the tasting room enjoy wine, and not just drink it. No wonder I’m so curmudgeonly.