Friday, September 09, 2005

How Far We Still Have To Go.....

Results of a survey published today by Wine Colleagues shows how very far wine education has to go. Wine Colleagues report that consumers do not understand what vintage dating means on a label (i.e. whether it refers to the year the grapes were harvested or the year they were bottled), that most consumers believe that an older wine is better than a younger one, and that vintage date lags behind varietal, price, and brand when it comes to selecting a wine purchase.

Now I for one would not have lost much money wagering on the lack of knowledge of the American wine consumer. Frankly, this stuff is complicated and you can't learn it by drinking supermarket wines and reading non-wine publications. To make matters worse, the industry myopically overestimates the knowledge of the average consumer. You have to make an effort to educate yourself as to what the terms on a label mean and that usually doesn't happen.

This is, of course, the industry's challenge and it has become more difficult than necessary. We have recently defined (legally) what "Napa" means on a label, but oddly, that decision doesn't apply to Sonoma, Champagne, Chianti, etc. We are spending tremendous time and effort defining what the "vintage" date means when its clear that (even to "core" consumers), the meaning is unclear to begin with.

I have said before that there are few wine writers writing for the entry-level consumer and this data just confirms for me that this education process is being skipped. Many consumers are probably nodding along as they read wine writing, pretending to understand the terms and subtle nuances, when in reality, they need to have a basic reference guide handy so they can truly understand what something as seemingly simple as a vintage date really refers to.

Wikipedia has a nice entry for wine with definitions of related terms. A good start, anyway.


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