Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wine and You - The Consumer

So I’m all set to start my WSET level 2 in the next 3 weeks.  But before I start up on all that fun stuff, I want to discuss with you a series of ideas on how we interpret the commodity of wine as consumers, retailers, restaurants, importers and makers. These aspects are all very much related.

First, and most importantly in my opinion, we have wine and the consumer. I am a wine consumer, and if you’re reading this blog, then I can only assume that you have consumed wine yourself. If not, then you should, I definitely recommend it.

When we go into a liquor store or a restaurant, what exactly are we looking for in a wine? Do we know what we want or do we let inspiration take us? Do we actually see it as an experience we are purchasing, be it the flavor of the wine or the company and atmosphere we whish to propagate?

Yes and no… ehh, lets go with “kinda”.

I think as a consumer we are looking for something that does speak to our specific taste and when we go shopping for a wine in a store, none of us bring a strict shopping list but we do have a motivation. Be it price point, varietal or food to go with it, we have something in mind. It’s not often we just magically find our selves in a liquor store with our eyes closed as we blindly fumble down the isle playing musical chairs with our wines. How ever entertaining that notion may be.

I would estimate that 4 out of 5 times that a normal consumer buys a wine from a liquor store, they have gone in for a purpose; be it a brand they recognize or a pairing they’ve been told about.  It’s safe. There is a list to follow. Just in and out. Hopefully there’re no lines.
But that 1 out of 5, and honestly them ain’t bad odds, will meander through the store, picking which isle to go down and looking at labels and reading descriptions. Waiting for a gem to call out to them so they can try something new. I think the BEST wine shops hire people that do that themselves. Because it takes one to know one. And while the staff may lose 15 minutes discussing 2003 California wines, the consumer is going to be happy as a clam, and satisfied with their experience even if they don’t take to the wine they’ve bought. And heaven forbid if one of these wine pioneers finds the boutique and high-end wine! The racks become library shelves and hours can be lost.

However when a consumer buys a wine in a restaurant, there is a much higher percentage that are open to trying something new. Most people I believe treat dining out as a ‘new experience’ and open to the inspirations and suggestions of their dining guests and service staff.  The whole notion of going out and ordering a bottle of wine with dinner, or even just a glass, is seen as an event and people are with peers where they can discuss this new experience.

I think a wine that will ultimately appeal to a consumer is one that they know about, which is hard, because lets face it. Wine isn’t self-explanatory. There are so many label variations, varietals, appellations and years that it simply cant be helped that you don’t know what the stuff in the bottle is going to taste like. I think some of the best ways to counteract this is simply to educate yourself. Ask your friends, what wines they drink what they like in wine and why. Or ask your store clerk, or your server. If you’re too shy to ask, or if you are unfortunate enough to have been dealing with someone who knows less then you do, then Google is going to be your best friend. But even then, it’s not like buying a liter of Pepsi, where it’s the same flavor every time. Get informed on your wines and keep an open mind. Just as it is with most product choices; you wouldn’t go with the first insurance company you found, you’d shop around and see what other quotes you could get and educate yourself.

And yes, I know for most people picking a wine isn’t as important as insurance. Well, maybe for me it is. Kinda.


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