Brevity aside, I read this article by Eric Asmiov today which made me wonder about a few things. I'm not sure if Mr. Asmiov meant to bring up such questions but in any event I wanted to write a little about what often confuses me in this wonderful world (of wine). His article discusses the importance that consumers place upon the color of a red wine, going on to say that darker wines are perceived as being better, of higher quality. Within the article, he refutes this notion with some examples of red wines that may not have darker colors but still have high amounts of flavor and intensity.
What got me thinking was the notion that winemakers admit to making their wines darker in response to consumer preferences. I'll stop short of calling them sellouts, because they aren't doing anything egregious. The practical or economic side of the business says that you need to sell the wines you make so that you can afford to make more wines. Therefore if the consumer wants unnaturally dark reds, they'll get them. Sure I was bummed to read about that, even if Mr. Asmiov first talked to winemakers about this five years ago, but I try to understand from their point of view what's going on.
More to the point, how did the perception of darker = better quality/more flavor arise and is there anything that can be done to get the word out that this isn't the case? How do you change the inertia of such a large group of consumers? The first thing that popped into my head was that it would truly require a concerted effort by a majority of wine people. Something coordinated across the various industry areas that would inform and assist consumers in moving past the erroneous notion. Delving into that a bit deeper, I feel it would also have to be an effort with a positive message, not one that would alienate wine drinkers by making them feel like they were being lectured to.
There's already too much pontification in the wine industry, from holier-than-thou critics to arrogant winemakers and I really sense consumers are starting to feel that more and more. Perhaps that explains, at least partly, the trends towards wine drinkers getting their information from new, non-traditional sources. Ones that might be construed as less biased and less committed to the old ways. Stepping down off my soapbox, such an effort could work, I firmly believe it. I suspect it's just such a massive undertaking in organizing everyone and ensuring the message was the right one that no one's willing to give it a shot.
From here, as you'll see, I started thinking beyond one particular issue and my brain felt like it was kicking into a higher gear. Let me apologize and inform you that I did not intend to write such a long blog about this but once the ideas and questions (well mainly questions) started coming out, I couldn't stop them. As you'll see, I think the broader reach of my thoughts still resonates within the wine business specifically. Ok, time to get back on topic.
But why stop there, what can be done about other erroneous consumer ideas? I mean let's face it, sometimes the customer is wrong. Americans have such a weird idea of customer service, all in the name to separate people from their dollars, but it is what it is and fundamentally will not change. How the message or education is modulated therefore must be precise. Maybe that's why top advertising and marketing executives make so much money, they know how to be that precise. Speculation gets me nowhere though, it sure doesn't pay the bills!
I'm trying to distill my main point into something somewhat clear and concise. I think it expands on what Mr. Asimov first brought up though, the notion that consumers, who do drive the market, can be wrong or at least misinformed. Basically it boils down to this: What, if anything, can be done to dispel misperceptions that exist in wine buyers? Further, if something can be done, will it actually be done and will it work? Are we limited to a glacial rate of change and if yes, how does that impact the dynamics of the industry? I told you it was a bad idea when I got to thinking!