Supply, Demand, Wine & Magnets

There’s a wine story out there today that seems to have found its way into the sections of newspapers other than "FOOD". Michelle Locke, the find reporter for AP that has the wine beat writes about some sort of magnet devise that supposedly softens up the tannins in wine through some form of…well…somehow.

While interesting, it’s not very consequential. What’s really interesting is the quote that comes out of the story from Peter Farrell, a "master of wine" and the inventor of the magnet wine gadget. Farrel is quoted as saying in regard to the extent of the gadget’s powers:

"You can turn Two Buck Chuck into Five or Six Buck Chuck, but not Twelve Buck Chuck."

Usually, when "Two Buck Chuck" is referred to it’s references to just how cheap the wine is. In this case however, we have a Master of Wine using Two Buck Chuck to suggest that price and quality have a near mathematical relationship when it comes to wine. Mr. Farrell is also suggesting that "Two Buck Chuck" is just about the worst wine out there.

Now, I’ve tasted Two Buck Chuck, the $2.99 bottle of wine with a "California" appellation and that is sold exclusively at Trader Joe’s. It is hardly the worst wine out there. I’m not so concerned that Farrell makes this inference (though Trader Joe’s and Fred Franzia might be). What irks me is the notion that price and quality are intimately related on what appears to be a fairly linear scale, according to Farrell.

This is a big topic that goes to issues of subjectivity, supply and demand and the often strange influences on the retail wine market. And perhaps these issues ought to be revisited at some point.

My point here is a simple one: It’s a bit irresponsible for anyone, let alone a "master of wine" who has a wine improvement product to sell, to suggest that quality is intimately linked to price when it comes to wine. It would be far more accurate to say that the price of a wine is related to its demand, relative to its supply.


8 Responses

  1. Fredric Koeppel - August 7, 2006

    Of course when you get to the upper tiers of wine production there’s sometimes little relationship between price and quality; it’s all in the hype and the desire to create an instant “cult” wine. Think of how many multi-million-dollar wineries are build by multi-millionaires and the first wine comes out (of course a high-alcohol, sexed-up oaky cabernet)and the price, with no track record whatever, is $75 a bottle.
    and on another note, the most interesting character on my family tree (maternal side) was a young man who made his way from switzerland in the 1880s and worked his way around New York state selling rubber hose devices as an “electromagnetic” cure for all sorts of ailments. Perhaps he and Peter Farrell could join forces in the magnetic improvement zone.

  2. Mark Finley - August 7, 2006

    Farrell isn’t the only one who implies this. There seems to be a strong price/quality relationship with Wine Spectator’s numerical ratings – much more so than say Parker’s.

  3. Rob Cole - August 7, 2006

    Besides which, the alleged effects from this magnet aren’t to improve the quality of a poor wine, it’s to make a wine more drinkable younger.
    Personally, I believe the way to really improve the wine is in the winemaking process: the fermentation must be started under a full moon while the winemaker dances around the must wearing only crystals and playing an Enya CD as loud as possible in order to keep the flying saucers away from the vineyard.
    But a magnet might be as effective…

  4. Tripp Fenderson - August 7, 2006

    Thought I’d toss out a warning to the wine bloggers – you may want to reconsider that habit of drinking and writing tasting notes while sitting in front of the computer.
    From BevWizard’s web site:
    CAUTION: The BevWizard’s magnets are extremely strong, especially for their size. Therefore, please keep the device away from Pacemakers, Credit Cards, TV Sets, Computers, Monitors, Printers, Fax Machines, Floppy Disks and other Software, PLUS Cell Phones, Watches and other battery-powered devices!

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