Cancer Sticks and Cannibals

Cannibal If anyone ever needed a reminder after the film "Sideways" of just how intensely influential pulp culture is on the world of wine, you need only look at the report of of a Survey taken on consumer recognition of wine regions.

You can download a presentation of the Survey's findings HERE.

To cut to the chase, when 3000 respondents were ask to name the one word that came to mind when prompted with the name of a wine producing region, "Cigarettes" was the most popular response to New Zealand's Marlborough region and "Silence of the Lambs" was most popular when prompted with the Chianti Region.

Cancer Sticks and Cannibals!

This isn't very shocking, if you ask me. What I do find a little shocking is the recognition portion of the survey. Respondents were also asked if they recognized certain wine regions. What is a little shocking is that only 75% of American respondents recognized "Champagne" as a wine producing region. If the Champagne marketers here in the U.S. can get that up to 85%, that would probably be good for another few million dollars in sales annually.

But here's another tidbit that plays into cultural issues. When asked if they recognize the "Burgundy" wine region, 73% of American respondents said they did. But when asked if they recognize the "Bourgogne" wine region, only 32% recognized it. UK respondents had a similar differential in their familiarity with the French language.

This survey, conducted by Wine Intelligence, needs to be duplicated here in the United States but focused on American based wine regions. I'd like to see similar questions asked about various U.S. wine regions, taken by visitors to specialty wine shops. I'd like to see the responses broken down by the level of wine knowledge possessed by the respondent. I'd like to know how many recognize "Napa Valley", "Russian River Valley", "Sonoma Valley", "Santa Lucia Highlands", "Anderson Valley",  etc. And among the most knowledgeable respondents, I'd to see what words they attach to these regions.

Finally, I'd love to see this kind of survey given to members of the wine trade. It would be fascinating to see the difference in recognition and association that exists between members of the wine trade and highly knowledgeable consumers.

But back to the cultural influence on wine appreciation. I'm not sure what lasting effect Hannibal Lecter's proclivity for pairing Chianti and human body parts had on sales of Chianti. But I can guess. That said, it strikes me that the major regional marketing associations and the varietal marketing associations might want to give some long, hard thought on how to make a splash via cultural vehicles in order to create a more prominent appreciation for their product.

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5 Responses

  1. Alan Goldfarb, Senior Editor, - June 16, 2009

    What I want to know is, who the hell are the 5% in the U.S. who didn’t know where the Napa Valley was?
    I guess they are part of Bush’s base.

  2. Benito - June 16, 2009

    I’m curious what the age range is for this study. Unless your parents are somehow connected to the business, or you live near a major wine producing region, you’re not likely to have any meaningful exposure to wine regions before your 21st birthday. (Can you imagine a class on wine geography in high school? I would have taken it in a heartbeat but the local bluenoses would have torched the school.) After that, it seems from my (anecdotal, flyover state) experience that many Americans spend a big chunk of their 20s drinking beer, liquor, and only the occasional cheap wine that merely says “California” or “Australia”.
    Frankly I’m surprised the numbers were that high for recognizing any of the regions. It’s the kind of knowledge that doesn’t filter through pop culture well, you pretty much have to seek out the information and teach yourself if you’re interested. I’d imagine similar results for major cigar-quality tobacco regions around the world.

  3. Ron Washam, HMW - June 16, 2009

    Nice photo of Vaynerchuk.

  4. Thomas Pellechia - June 16, 2009

    I’m with Benito. The high numbers of recognition are surprising.
    Did they survey only wine geeks? There are other wine consumers.

  5. Iris - June 17, 2009

    So probably the decision of the regional wine representatives around here, to replace Languedoc-Roussilon by “South of France” was not a bad one… even if on another scale, smaller and smaller and always more specified AOC appellations are proliferating going from Vin de Pays des Côtes de Thongue to new ones like AOC Minervois la Livinière…(is AOC- appellation d’origine contrôllée known by wine-consumer abroad?)
    Ps: The two examples above are from about 50 km away from where I live – and I had to look them up on a map, to know, what they meant…

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