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07.15.2009

Lest We Forget the Average Wine Drinker....

It's quite easy to be lulled into a false sense of reality in any number of ways in our lives. We extrapolate so much from our own experience that we tend to forget that most of us live in little bubbles, amidst an outside world that often bears little resemblance to ourselves.

I very much appreciate, and in some cases seek out, opportunities to be reminded that the world of wine I live in is not the world of the average wine consumer. While I tend to buy most of my wine from the smaller, independent wine merchants that I recommend my readers patronize, I enjoy browsing the wine aisles of supermarkets and big box stores to see what's on offer, and watch how people buy.

Likewise, I always enjoy the surveys that are published at regular intervals suggesting to us what "normal" consumers actually buy, and what they think about wine. One of those surveys is the periodic UK-based Wine and Spirit Trade Association's survey of British consumers. They ask a few thousand consumers about their drinking habits, and then report the trends.

According to Decanter, their most recent report included some questions about the importance of information about where a wine is from in helping consumers make their purchasing decisions.

Apparently less than half of British consumers surveyed said that the region where the wine comes from is an important factor in their buying decision, and only 58% said that even the country was an important factor.

In short, a large number of consumers don't really know or care where their wine comes from, or at least they don't use that as a criteria for buying their wine. Grape color, price, and grape variety seem to play a much greater role in decisions, presumably along with what the cute animal is on the front of the label.

As wrapped up as we get in our favorite wines, in learning about new wine regions, or in geeking out about wines with friends (or readers of our blogs) it's important to remember that we all have a greater purpose as wine lovers. We must all slowly, gently, compassionately, and lovingly, but whenever possible, offer to turn all these average wine drinkers on to some really good stuff. I'm not talking about brainwashing or pedantic lecturing. I'm talking about seduction.

Next time you get the chance to hang out with an ordinary wine drinker, slip them a really good wine and get them psyched about it. So maybe that the next time they head out to buy wine, they are that much more likely to end up with something they love, and that much more likely to want to learn more.

Back in the 60's there were (stupid, dangerous, and irresponsible) plots to dump gallons of LSD into various municipal water facilities as a means of "turning on" a lot of people who held strict prejudices against...well against a lot of different things.

I guess I can understand the desire to electrify a lot of people at once. The idea of having everyone's tap water replaced for a little while with a truly awesome white Burgundy for them to accidentally enjoy is worth fantasizing about for a few minutes anyway.

Hell, if they can do it in Italy accidentally, we ought to be able to pull it off around here.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.