Friday, September 15, 2006

Elitism & Scarcity

Skimming through the wine blogosphere is a fascinating experience. The amount of knowledge possessed by amateur wine writers continues to impress me and while my own interest in the generally obscure minutia of the wine world is pretty limited, it fascinates me to see the passion many people possess about this beverage.

That said (you were waiting for the other shoe, weren't you?), I'm deeply saddened to see the continued trend of elitism that pervades many blogs and those who comment on them. Don't get me wrong, I love a great bottle of wine more than the next guy, but as I have mentioned many times before, the elitism of the wine culture creates a real "barrier to entry" for many now-insecure consumers who would otherwise happily drink whatever fairly generic varietal the get on sale from their local megamart. I read numerous comments like "well, I wish people wouldn't drink yellow tail" and "most wine is insipid plonk not worthy of being poured down my drain" and "only certain regions of the world should even be producing wine at all (followed by a highly subjective assessment of climate, topography, and soils)".

I heartily agree that some wine is better than others, but let's just focus for a moment on what would happen if we were to wave our magic wand and eliminate all the "generic" wines that are so hated by wine geeks. We would lose all Vin de Table, all wines with broad appellations (California, Southwestern Australia, etc) and by preventing people from drinking these generics, we would be left with a very, very small amount of wine.

Now let's give the elitists a moment to catch up......okay, I see some lightbulbs coming on.....

Basic Economics tells us that scarcity drives prices up (basic supply/demand curve). If we were to eliminate all "generic" wines, the resulting scarcity would pretty much destroy the wine business for most of us. Why? Simply because the economies of scale in production and distribution would be completely lost. Wines would be $30 and up and would only be available in limited outlets as the now-lower profits from broad market distribution would make it uneconomic to sustain the current infrastructure. Wine would become as popular as soju, sold regionally (not nationally or internationally in the current sense), and be relegated to even greater obscurity.

Think for a moment about how bad the world would be if good wine were hard to get (or just imagine you live in a dry county or control state!). Think about how good we really have it and consider it your duty (as I do) to get more people drinking wine (of whatever kind). Let's all work to both raise the bar of consumption and raise the bar of quality. That becomes a win-win-win.

Do you resent the Franzia wine tap that Grandma keeps in the fridge? Do you gnash your teeth when Uncle Charlie breaks out the Red Bicyclette? You should thank them, because they allow you to be able to stay at the top of the wine food chain.....


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