Monday, August 16, 2004

"Let Them Eat Cake"

While the HJWOW realizes that writers need things to write about, one wonders whether some writers really understand such nebulous concepts as capitalism and the free market. Only in this industry do you find people suggesting that consumers should be told what to like. Somewhere, Adam Smith is spinning in his grave:

Let's consider this article for a minute.
While one readily realizes that most wine writers have a limited understanding of the actual wine business, its baffling that pundits like this can malign producers of a consumer product for giving consumers what they want! If consumers aren't buying riper wines, then wineries will stop making them! As with alcohol-removed wines, consumers aren't buying so wineries aren't producing. It's simple enough for a fourth grader to understand.

"Higher alcohol often accompanies the full, ripe, deep qualities that grace some of the most highly prized New World wines. It usually results from ultra-ripe fruit, often picked late into the harvest season, that also yields a taste

Yes, "a taste explosion". A tad overstated, but is this undesirable somehow? Less ripe wines (okay, let's just come out and say it - "French wines") get much of their flavors from oak and Brett. If consumers want a style of wine that tastes like the product was made from a fruit product (and has flavors descriptors associated therewith) then wineries should make wines that these "philistines" will purchase. Why must segments of the wine industry tell consumers what they should drink? Didn't these types of business practices go out with Henry "You can have any color as long as its Black" Ford? And further, if the most popular critics are supporting this view, doesn't that reinforce the need for this style?

"More influential has been the will of the market. Usually big and bold, high alcohol wines can be enjoyed within a year or so of release;"

And this, dear Mr. Bonne, is patently absurd. 99.99999% of wine produced is consumed within days of purchase, irrespective of alcohol levels. Only a very, very small portion of wine is intended for and even purchased for, long-term aging. Further, even with these wines, alcohol level is not the most determining factor in whether a wine can be enjoyed within a year after release. And as for the "will of the market", the will of the market seems to be for better-tasting wine and (again) if that brings consumers to that wine style, why must we denigrate their palettes by implying that they are unsophisticated for liking a tasty product. Higher alcohol levels are a by-product of the style, not the intended result in and of itself.

The times are changing, and producers can either join the French and drown in a sea of unsaleable wine, or actually give consumers what they want. . .


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