Great Wine: $30….Instant Sophistication: Priceless

Money Magazine reports:

"In restaurants, many people order the second-least-expensive wine on
the list, reports Money magazine. They don’t want to spend a lot, but
they don’t want the absolute worst pick. "The problem with using price
as a sign of quality is that the cost of a bottle is often influenced
by factors that have nothing to do with whether you’ll actually enjoy
drinking it. For one thing, people buy expensive wines as a way of
demonstrating sophistication and wealth."

How perfectly true is this, particularly, "The problem with using price as a sign of quality is that the cost of the bottle is often influenced by factors having nothing to do with whether you’ll enjoy drinking it.

No, clearly what this is all about is "demonstrating sophistication and wealth". This is how much of the DRC Romanee Conti I wrote about yesterday gets purchased, I’m sure.

It’s a sad commentary that can’t be ignored. In my business, I’m constantly thinking about the idea of "added value", that wispy, nearly undefinable quality that speaks often more to the consumer’s idea of "self worth" than to the quality of the actual juice in the bottle.

I don’t think however that the propensity for so many consumers to buy wine based on their need to demonstrate sophistication is completely the fault of marketers.Though we play a role, America’s early attachment to spirits and beer, at prices that made drinking cheap and easy, contributed to the notion that wine is for "those other people". Add to this the sophistication/snob reputation that France, the home of wine, has developed in all things cultural, and you have other reasons why wine drinking in America came to be seen as something more sophisticated than it has to be.

That reputation, however, is certainly one that marketers latched on to. It is much easier to affirm what consumers thing, and provide a response to their perception, than to turn their perception around.

Posted In: Wine Business


One Response

  1. David - January 5, 2006

    A side effect of equating price to quality is that in some instances it lets the restaurant staff avoid having a knowledge of their wine list.
    I have more respect and need for the server / sommelier that finds a great and memorable wine to go with the meal than one who simply highlights 3 price ranges and says they’re all fantastic bottles.
    I agree that the American public is getting what it has asked for. Fortunately that allows those in the know to still find bargains.

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