Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More thinking about drinking

There have already been some great comments on my previous post, and as my answers were getting quite long I thought I'd post a response here for all to see.

This seems to be the controversial statement:
"I believe that the average person's ability to consciously understand and process information is limited, ..."

I think I will need to restate this as I don't believe Richard, Gabriella and I disagree. I probably should have said "willingness" rather than "ability".

In reality we have to accept that the vast majority of people will not be interested in wine's messages and will simply keep going with their daily routines.

This isn't to say they cannot understand, only that they do not see the reason for bothering.

This is the point I have been grappling with since I began to explore the Wine Conversation. You have to care in order to learn something, and if you know nothing, you don't care. Catch 22.

I don't think that dumbing down works, as Gabriella says, because it removes the need to care or think.

But 99.9% of the world's wine businesses cannot afford to change this. As I said to Richard, look how much effort has gone into raising awareness of Climate Change. Think how much it would have cost businesses to get that level of press coverage and yet, despite all this, how little our habits have changed.

We must first capitalise on 'accidental' opportunities, such as Sideways, Bottle Shock, rappers interested in Champagne, etc.

The most exciting opportunities, however, would be if we could invent new contexts for wine information that would allow people to 'get into wine' from within environments they already understand and are comfortable with.

This is one reason I object to ideas for standardising the way we present wine - that merely entrenches existing differences. If we could come up with such a new way of thinking (the way Reebok & Nike did for trainers, or Apple did for portable music devices) then we might make a difference.

Of course, if I had a ready-made solution I'd stop blogging and start making my fortune! Having said that, I have an idea which I am developing and will hopefully see the light of day. Stay tuned!


Richard Auffrey said...

I certainly feel that more people are interested in wine than in the past. Each year that passes sees more and more people interested in it. Sure, the majority still has an apathy towards learning about wine. They want the easy way out, to choose a wine by points or an animal on the label. But that can change over time.

I think one part of the unwillingness of people to learn about wine is the perception that they must learn so much about it to understand it. It seems like a large investment of time for a minimal payout. So, one way to entice more people to learn about wine is to show that even small bits of info can have a large payout.

I agree with Robert that capitalizing on events, like Sideways, etc., is a good thing. Such events do entice people to want to learn more about a subject.

And as Gabriella said previously, we need to make it personal, which can help engage others. They can see people in similar situations and thus relate better. And if they feel a connection, they are more likely to accept what they read.

I still think one of the most powerful methods of instilling interest is to get people to taste different wines. Break them out of their comfort zone and try something different. If they find something new they like, they are more apt to want to know more about it.

Anonymous said...

Engaging them when they least expect it. That's the key. I had many customers at my old store who would say this: "I'm not really into wine, but I was in Italy and I tasted a chianti while visiting _____ and I fell in love with it." These personal moments are what connect people to wine and encourage them to explore. Hopefully the best written blogs can do some of this, but really a winery could probably help themselves a lot by not directly talking about their wine, but the things that are around it. All the while making sure they keep a bottle in the background!

Here in Spain people know very little about wine, but we do ahve a wine culture. It's always the backdrop to life events. Learning about wine and "geeking out" are things that the mainstream won't do, and I don't believe they need to do it either.

Joe Roberts said...

You hit the nail on the head - thinking about drinking means we're probably actually drinking and not guzzling. It's one of the keys to real appreciation.

As for scores, I find them of limited value. If I recommended a good wine but it's only an 89-pointer, that can actually turn people off to something that they might really, really enjoy.

I have never sat around talking scores with anybody, wine geek or wine newbie. It just never happens in my world!

Gabriella Opaz said...

Alright Robert, I'm hooked! What's your new plan to take over the wine world, instilling good wine wisdom and passion into all those willing to be converts?

Richard, I agree that tasting wines from around the world is important; however, I would take it one step further and say that whatever you consume should be varying in flavor, smell, sight and texture. Granted, my cooking won't get you there ;-) but if we can aid people in exploration and curiosity, it won't matter where the wine wine is from as long as it is something they've never tried before.

Robert McIntosh said...


Let's just say that when that particular ship sets sail, some people will be invited on board, and others may get left behind!!

I'll say no more for now