I believe that really enjoying wine does require the consumer to exercise not only their senses, but also their imagination, and so has to involve "thinking" to some extent.
Unfortunately, most people already have "too much on their mind" and therefore filter out what they see as "unnecessary" or complex information.
Philosophers and Social Psychologists can debate the finer points of this and either disagree or provide more details, but, stated simply, I believe that the average person's ability to consciously understand and process information is limited, and for simplicity's sake, let's call this process their "mind".
Two people quoting point scores at each other is not a conversation, it is a game of Top TrumpsThis is important for the wine business because if it is true, getting busy consumers to think about your wine or brand means competing not only with what is already "on their mind", but with every other product, brand and person trying to get in on the action too. This concept is called "Share of Mind" or "Mindshare".
But who cares?
Well, there are many related issues that this touches upon.
1. A recent study in the US by Constellation, apparently showed that a large number of US wine consumers were "overwhelmed" by the choice of brands available. In theory, if you convert them to consumers of your 'easy solution', then you've got a hit wine brand. Unfortunately, it isn't as easy as saying "here is a new wine to make your life easier", you have to get their attention before they'll hear the message. To get a share of mind from this audience, you have to fight VERY hard, and that means a lot of money in advertising. More on this topic soon, but it is also worth reading Dr. Debs' view first.
2. Why are point scores for wine reviews so popular? Well, a score summarises all those tiresome descriptions, positive feelings, negative complications, and vinous complexities into a neat comparison tool.
"87 is greater than 86, so that wine is better!"
Points help to avoid any need to research, compare and analyse, and summarise it all into something that allows for simple calculations. Why fight for a share of mind when you can supply them with a easy reference tool? Unfortunately, it does nothing for the Wine Conversation. Two people quoting point scores to each other is not a conversation, it is a game of Top Trumps.
I'm not really saying that scoring itself is a bad idea. When well used, points can play a positive role as additional bits of information, but generally speaking they are taken out of context and misused - somewhat like the 'dark side of the force'.
3. There are many discussions about wine culture around the world. Does the UK have a wine culture or just a drinking culture? Does the US have a wine culture? What is the European wine culture today? I'd suggest that the difference between a drinking culture and a wine (or beer) culture, is whether there is a conscious involvement in the choice of consumption.
The person who rolls up to the bar and orders "a lager", or " glass of house wine" (or even arguably those used to ordering well established "brands" like Pinot Grigio) are in the former. The choice figures only in their mind as an alternative path to inebriation and no more. However, even a cursory glance at a wine list, and a choice of a variety or region they have some association with, forms part of a wine culture, however shallow.
I could go on, but most of these points deserve a post in their own right.
Much of this was kicked off by the posts I mentioned above. For some of us, even "comfort wines" are wines that evoke feelings, memories or our imagination.
And this brings me to my final thought. The more we bother to THINK about wine, its history, its agricultural roots and its role in our culture, the less we are likely to abuse it as a mere alcoholic drink. If this helps to reduce the harm to individuals and society stuck in a drinking culture, then we are doing our job well.