Imagine you arrive at a small town for the first time and are looking for a place to eat. On the left you have Fred’s Bar and Diner, and on the right you have a McDonalds. Take a moment to consider the information you have been presented with.
Most likely you have never heard of Fred’s Bar and Diner. For all you know, they may serve the best burgers in the world. Or it could be the breeding ground for a drug-resistant strain of bacteria, a food-poisoning disaster waiting to happen.
On the other hand, you have McDonalds. It’s hardly fancy fare, but you know there will be burgers, fries and sodas. You can expect prices to be low. The bathrooms should be relatively clean and stocked with toilet paper. And there will be service with a smile.
The above is just an example to illustrate the importance of information when it comes to decision making.
The same line of thought can be applied to the wine industry. For the most part it’s easy to forget that wine isn’t all fruits, nuts and parties – wine is a business, and businesses deal with money through various transactions built upon a foundation of information.
Let’s look at another example: on one table, a bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti; on the other, a bottle of Rockburn ‘The Art’ Pinot Noir. One has fame and praise lavished upon it by critics and collectors, and thus commands exorbitant prices. The other is still priced at a premium but likely enjoys less attention.
At a more basic level we’ve just covered the essence of branding. Businesses build a brand upon a backbone of reputation of quality, and after a time the mere mention of the name becomes proof of their distinction.
Branding can come in many flavours though. Obviously there is positive branding, suggestive of high-quality with prices to match. Then there is neutral branding – most people probably wouldn’t have an opinion of Fred’s Diner. And finally there is negative branding; an example of negative branding in wine is rosé, and how easily most people dismiss it as cheap, pink alcohol.
The big names in wine have done a lot for their industry and deserve any success they get. However, I do take issue with the fact that a significant subset of consumers seem to be attracted to wines purely due to branding. In time, this opens up the possibility of producers relying purely on their brand to make sales and profits, rather than working to maintain the quality of their product.
Good news: if you’re reading this blog, it’s likely you want to be an educated consumer. Becoming more informed is not difficult, but it is a process. And just as there is good information, there is also bad and unreliable information.
Discounting factors such as income and status, the consumer should aim to make an informed decision. To be informed, you must have an intimate understanding of your own tastes.
By doing your research and being aware of your own tastes and preferences, you become a more informed consumer and gain more power in the decision making process. It will take time, and you will find some information sources are better than others.
You don’t have to undergo a culinary course to understand food – before travelling to a new place, see if there are any reviews for Fred’s Diner on the Internet. If you prefer Chinese food, search for that instead. A little due diligence can save you from eating as McDonalds for the rest of your life, without ever knowing what else is out there.
Search according to your tastes. Find good and reliable information. Have a taste of everything and take notes when necessary.
PS – I am now offering Personal Wine Consultations. If you don’t want to spend months in a wine class, check this out and give it a try.
Read more: Rational Wine Experiment – The Vertical Tasting