Wine Numbers

I just finished reading in California Grapevine an address that Dan Berger gave the Wine Press Club of New South Wales. You can also find it online HERE. (ATTN: PDF)

In it, he offers selected advice for the wineries and winemakers of Australia. One piece of advice was particularly interesting:  "Empower the consumer with factual data".

Specifically, Dan is talking about putting things like the Total Acidity and pH information on the label.

This is all pretty arcane chemical information. It’s unlikely that very many people would have any idea what it means or what the difference is between a wine with a pH level of 3.55 and 3.8.  Dan understands this. He writes, "How many consumers can  interpret these numbers. This is not the point. Those who can interpret these numbers are the consumers you want to win over and hold on to."

I think he’s absolutely right.

Even more than alcohol or the name of the appellation on the label, the pH level can deliver loads of information about the wine in the bottle, mostly about its structure and ability to age way. It’s one thing to right on the back label, "this wine should age well for blah blah blah". It’s another to write, "THIS is why this wine is more likely to age well" then offer up the number.

Posted In: Wine Business


3 Responses

  1. Mike - August 28, 2006

    Of the advice that Berger gave to the Wine Press Club of New South Wales, the total acidity and pH comments at least had some originality.
    But seeing as you are in public relations why don’t you test his idea? Ask around, see how many consumers “can interpret these numbers”. My feeling is that its a very, very small number of wine drinkers. Hell, it would be a very small number of college graduates. I have a PhD, and I have to go look up what the relevance is in terms of the chemistry of wine. If the information really was important to wineries who want to hold on to those consumers who do understand the numbers, don’t you think it would already be on bottle labls?
    Some of this data does appear on winery sites with notes on individual wines but there is rarely any explanation, they are usually just part of the winemaker’s notes. Are they missing out on Dan’s great idea? I don’t really think so. The consumer wants to know what the wine tastes like, not its acidity or pH. The vast majority of wine is consumed within days of purchase, and even if wine is laid down it is mostly in a cupboard where it will never mature as it was meant to do. The wine education that needs to be done is not about acidity and pH.

  2. jeff - August 28, 2006

    hi Tom – We’ve playing with some ideas for a bit, and Josh over at Pinotblogger gave me a kick in the pants to get on with it last week. I don’t think we’ll be trying to cram all this data onto a wine label any time soon, but it will be available on our web site. Here is our first crack:
    I think we still have a little way to go. You’ll also notice our necessary attempts at humor (“salad dressing”)…
    I plan to have some sort of “Geek Guide” that talks about the numbers and graphs to at least show around within a few days. It may be that few consumers know how to interpret the numbers, but interested consumers may enjoy the chance to learn more…
    Please let me know what you think! – j

  3. Mike Duffy - August 29, 2006

    I find that both “cat piss on a gooseberry bush” and raw numbers are both pretty useless. Jeff at Twisted Oak is on the right track – relating it to an experience that people have already had. After all, a wine review is just a substitute for actually tasting it yourself.
    A winemaker friend of mine (Don Baumhefner of Copeland Creek) likes to pour wines blind and then ask people what they think they are and what they like about them. One of the most instructive tastings of this sort involved three glasses of the same grape and vintage, each with a different level of alcohol. Now I know what a difference alcohol makes. But prior to that, 13.2% vs 13.8% was just an abstraction.
    Obviously, there are some wineries to whom the connoisseur that can distinguish subtle pH differences is important, and yes, those wineries should address those customers and hold onto them. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to include pH (or any other “technical” information) when marketing your wine (although I might not emphasize it in the lead sentence).
    But most wineries are failing in their direct marketing efforts well before that point. The humor that Twisted Oak employs is one method of setting your juice apart.

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