Cancer Sticks and Cannibals
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 WineBusiness.com 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.