Sunday, December 12, 2010

Top Expert Declares Wines Should Be Homogenized, Lifeless Commodities!

If you are reading this I apparently got your attention. The intention of this post is to help people get past the incorrect conclusions drawn by many people about my work.

Seems that if I am to infer the wine industry might be better off learning more about consumers and applying that learning to promoting the expansion of wine consumption that what I REALLY and saying is we need to produce bland, homoginized, cheap wines with no soul or character and sell them to consumers that I think are morons. Here is a lovely example of how the logic seems to go:

I recently posted a comment to a blog on balance that predicatbly inspired lively debate and opposing points of view. I used a Napa Valley Cabernet for an example of a wine people might perceive differentlly from a standpoint of balance, primarily how differently we experience alcohol and tannin. My comment was framed by the Sufi parable about 3 blind men describing how they perceived an elephant and I used generalizations from my research on taste sensitivity to illustrate how physiological sensory variables shape our differing experiences and the descriptions and opinions we form of those experiences. Here is the response it elicited:

Ticked off California wine critic: “I think he makes too much of his pet theories, but then we all do. But when he drags them in to suggest that only people with dull palates could appreciate CA Cabs, then he goes too far.”

Blog author, “I didn't take Tim's comment to be a broadbrush stroke against CA wines.”

Critic, expanding his hostility and errant correlations, “frankly, how can the story be interpreted any other way. Only the third blind blogger, the one with no taste buds (hmmm – I never said that), likes CA wines…And what he sees is that only blind bloggers with no tastebudes like CA wine. That would suggest that 95% of all Californians are borne with fewer taste buds than average (hmmm - I said never said that). Sorry, Joe, but that kind of logic cannot be left unchallenged”

Yowser – that is sure a stretch! He then goes over to attack me on his own blog:
"So, today, over on Joe Roberts’ site, Mr. Hanni, brought his “number of taste buds” theory to bear on why some people never like California wine...To put it another way, apparently 95% of people living in California are born with an insufficient number of taste buds and we just do not know any better...This theory gets what it deserves: F"

Although the  headline for this blog is the farthest thing from my mind, people who are passionate and very expert about wine seem very confronted and afraid that this is what I am proposing - and unwilling to learn more about it. All I can say is get over it. My consumer research and movement is directed to end the ‘tyranny of the minority’, restore the possibility of making wines with MORE character and MORE diversity is being met with great resistance, ignorance and hostility.

All this cynicism, hostility and fear is aimed towards me for looking for NEW solutions to create a stronger market and add more value to the entire wine industry.

Here is my mission: understand, embrace and cultivate ALL wine consumers.

Here is my plan: 
  • Re-educate the wine industry versus relying on educating the wine consumers on BS (not that this stops educating consumers – just changes the game in a big way and will require a lot of revision to materials and information)
  • Conduct more NEW consumer research to really understand the market – not the wine but also not excluding wine research.
  • Disseminate better and more accurate information that encourages people to explore new wines more confidently, confidently share their preference
  • Abolish the fear, intimidation and overwhelm we have created, and continue to radiate, because of OUR ignorance. Many people think they are doing this but they are just doing the same-old-stuff in a new way with the same outcome.
And beware! There will be more focus coming your way on sweet wine consumers – AND big red wine consumers and sparkling wine consumers and light white wine consumers and pink wine consumers and fortified wine consumers and people who love terroir and people who love 100 point systems and people who love Italian, French, Australian, South African, New Zealand and South American wines – plus wines from anywhere I may have missed in this incomplete wine.

From the point of fear and cynicism in the wine community here are a few nuggets from the field:

“Aw, jeez, Tim. Now I understand why your posts have had a bit of irritation for me… You view wine as a commodity –“

“you are-in my opinion-an idiot.”

“Seriously, your argument is ridiculous.”

“I read the Hanni piece a bit like Charlie did, as more pathetic than anything else. Hanni should know better.”

“Anybody who says their goal in life is to make simple what we wine critics over-analyze is giving you a simplistic explanation and one moreover you should take with a grain of salt. Beware the demystification industry. It’s not as pure and disinterested as you might think.”

And now another take from a few of the people (and wine producing regions) where they see understanding consumers and opportunity:

“We are working with the Sauternais to 'Liberez les Sauternes' or free Sauternes from it's labeling as a dessert wine and I instinctively feel that you might be able to help us. The Sauternais drink their wines with fish, roast meats and spicy foods as well as with dessert - they can't understand why the world insists on drinking it only with sweet dishes, cheese or foie gras… The 'anti-sweet' phenomenon is frustrating and confusing to them. They sense that, if left alone to choose, most people would prefer to drink sweet wines much more frequently and your research suggests that this might be the case. If there is anything that you can send to help our mini-movement I would be most grateful…” From producers in a classic region, producing great wine of style and character, frustrated and facing lost market by the obtuse and narrow thinking of the wine industry!

“Tim, your name has been recommended to me at least 5 times in the last week and I see why now! Your review of who I am and what I like, I have to say spot on!” From a blogger who asked the question – “who am I”

“I’ve been ridiculed by black coffee–drinking big cab lovers as not having a “sophisticated” palate for preferring sweet wines — fruit-far-forward rieslings and icewines, preferably — to pucker-producing titans of tannin. I like icewines, because they don’t have the bite of high-alcohol ports or the like. A Napa Valley chef recently tried to convince me that learning to savor bitterness was part of “growing up” as a cosmopolitan connoisseur.” From a MALE wine business writer who is embarrassed to tell people what kind of wines he enjoys the most.

“I really love how you continue to refine and hone in on this tremendous wealth of information you have. This is a great distillation, very clear. A great set up for exploring and learning. How exciting that it will be part of these curriculums!” From one of the Napa Valley’s greatest chefs.

So who is against growing the industry? Seems like a lot of people think consumers are too stupid to know what they should like and the job of the wine expert is to save them from themselves. I propose there is a better way.