I very nearly passed this over as a blog topic. I found it barely newsworthy, but Arthur, one of my regular readers pinged me about it the day after the story broke and I’ve been thinking about it off and on ever since. I’ve come to the conclusion that we all need the opportunity to occasionally regain perspective on the world of wine, and this recent news story provides just such an opportunity.
The story to which I refer was a little snippet from Decanter’s news service which offered the results from a recent study of British wine drinkers (arguably some of the most wine savvy in the world) in whom there was a near total absence of understanding of what Biodynamic meant, and a supreme lack of interest in purchasing organic and fair trade wines.
Many of us wine lovers live in a world as foreign and bizarre to the normal wine consumer as the San Francisco Bay Area is to United States politics as a whole. It’s simply a question of being in a completely separate universe. While I certainly don’t assume all my readers live in that world with me, the reality is that most of you, even those of you who would consider yourselves wine amateurs know much more about wine than the “average” wine drinker in this country, and certainly, it seems, than the average UK wine drinker.
I recently spoke as part of a panel for an event put on by an organization called Wine 2.0, which consists of individuals and organizations who are trying to use the latest in technologies, many of which fall under the banner of a set of technical and social innovations collectively dubbed Web 2.0, to change the way that business is done in the wine world. The closing question to the panel I sat on was: “what do you think is the single largest opportunity in the wine business today?”
The results of this UK survey perfectly highlight my answer to that question, which I will paraphrase here for brevity.
The biggest opportunity in the wine world are the tens of millions of people who are responsible for making Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay and Beringer Vineyards White Zinfandel the most popular wines consumed in restaurants in America. They are also the people who have never tried Grenache, the people who think all Riesling is sweet, and yes, the people who have no idea what Biodynamic wine is and think that all organic wine tastes bad.
Let us not forget that these people, not just in America, but in the UK, and even in France (gasp ! did you know that 95% of the wine consumed in France is non-appellation designated table wine?), really represent the average wine drinker, and these people are the ones that drive the economic engine of the wine industry. These are the people who do not know enough (or cannot afford) to buy wine at anywhere other than a grocery store. These people are the ones that through no fault of their own are responsible for the economic crisis that the French wine industry faces, and the same ones that are responsible for creating the bug eyed monsters of the more elite wine world: the YellowTails and the Fred Franzias.
So I offer to you a challenge, one that I actively work on every time I get the chance. Do not proselytize, do not crusade, but do look for every opportunity represented by an inquisitive person, an open mind, and a budding young (or old) palate to open the doors of the wine world a little larger. There’s plenty of room in here.