Wine Critics: Please Ignore The Consumers!
Such is the conclusion of a new survey of English wine drinkers published in Harpers Wine & Spirits Trade Review. It’s nothing new is it. We’ve been hearing about the pretentiousness of wine descriptions for ages. What’s notable is that this latest reiteration of a theme speaks to the utility of wine descriptions. The article goes on to say:
“Some 55% of those polled said wine descriptions failed to help them understand the taste of wine, while nearly two thirds said they never get the same smells from wine as are suggested from the label. Only 9% said they looked to wine critics before choosing a bottle….Six out of ten people said picking out a clear fruit taste in the wine was the best way to help understand a wine’s taste.”
So, it appears that consumers want utility. Clearly there is a failure here of the marketers and sellers of wine. The issue likely lies with the ego of those writing the descriptions of the wine. They are likely wine geeks who can’t bring themselves to give consumers what they want, which appears to be something like this:
“This wine tastes like cherries, cranberries and cola. It’s smooth. You’ll like it with pork”.
Wine marketers and sellers should keep this in mind: The average consumer is crying out for boring! Why not just give them boring!
However, there is another kind of wine description that has no business being boring, but too often is: those composed by wine critics, wine writers and wine reviews. The responsibility of these folks is altogether different from the responsibility of the wine seller. The wine critic should entertain us!! Enlighten us! Make us think!
When the wine writer describes a wine I say, GIVE ME PRETENTIOUS! GIVE ME COMPLEX. GIVE ME DETAIL.
The fact is, most wine writers are composing prose for a far more sophisticated audience than those consumers who complained in the survey reported on by Harpers. Most readers of wine writers are willing to consider the meaning of a wine that is described with unusual, three-syllable words. Most readers of wine reviewers are willing to read through a description of where a wine fits on the hedonistic scale or on the scale of historical styles or how it adheres to the traditional style of wines from a region. Yet this kind of wine description would probably be called “meaningless, bearing no relationship to a wine’s taste, pretentious and a load of poppycock.” as many of those in the survey described wine descriptions.
Let the pretentious wine writers be, please. Let them go on and on with odd and curious descriptions of wine. Let them compose descriptions of wines that stretch the meaning of utility. The day every wine review tells me the wine “tastes like apples, pears and vanilla and is smooth” is the day wine reviews really start to become useless.