The Wine Lover’s Hierarchy of Needs
Having lived among the Wine Lover now for 25 years and having observed them in their various form, it has become clear to me that this creature is motivated by a very specific hierarchy of needs; a categorical set of needs, if you will, ranging from the Wine Lover’s most basic physiological needs, through an intermediary category of needs that, if met, can lead the well-tended Wine Lover to the highest plain of Wine Lover-dom.
Understanding this Hierarchy of Wine Lovers’ Needs is critical to understanding the motivations behind the actions of the Wine Lover that you may have in your life.
The Wine Lover’s PHYSICAL NEEDS
Wine, Glass, Corkscrew
If the Wine Lover’s most Basic needs are left unmet, they risk becoming no Wine Lover at all and descending into the category of Water Lover or, worse, Cola Drinker. The Wine Lover will always seek to meet these needs before all others.
The Wine Lover’s RESOURCE (COMMITMENT) NEEDS
Adequate Storage, Access to Wine, Disposable Income
Assuming the Wine Lover’s most Basic needs are met, their Resource Needs, often referred to as “Commitment Needs” in acknowledgement of the commitment to wine they indicate, will be the next set of needs a Wine Lover seeks to meet. The Wine Lover understands that without tending to these needs, they risk dwelling among boxed wines, hand-outs from more advanced wine lovers or, perhaps most perilous, not having the next wine close at hand. Upon meeting the needs outlined at this level within the hierarchy, the Wine Lover begins to feel relatively safe.
The Wine Lover’s COMMUNAL NEEDS
Peer Group Acceptance, Internet Discussion Threads, Group Tastings
Once meeting their critical Basic and Resource needs the Wine Lover is unleashed from the grip of fear that they may lose their Wine Lover status or not be able to frequently access wine and they are freed to pursue their Communal needs. This is the level within the hierarchy of Wine Lovers’ needs that most Wine Lovers spend most of their lives pursuing. Meeting these needs means forming bonds with other wine lovers through frequent interactions that demonstrates not only their self-awareness and understanding of terroir, but also reinforces the critical faith in their specialness. Failure to meet communal needs early in their life as a Wine Lover can lead to feelings of inadequacy and the appearance of being a snob.
The Wine Lover’s ESTEEM & ACHIEVEMENT NEEDS
Respect of Other Wine Lovers, A Wine Blog, First Name Basis With Experts
As the name of this level of need suggests, here the Wine Lover has graduated from being driven by basic and common communal needs most associated with being a Wine Lover, to being motivated to rise above their peers. Once this kind of motivation takes hold of a Wine Lover, pursuit of these needs can take many forms. Most commonly the Wine Lover seeking to fulfill their Esteem and Achievement needs will make frequent pronouncements aimed at instructing other wine lovers. They will usually author a blog in order to demonstrate their achievement beyond that of others and to seek expression of esteem by others. Meeting the needs within this level of the Hierarchy of Wine Lovers Needs is often related to the Wine Lover still possessing low levels of self-respect.
The Wine Lover’s PURSUIT OF EXPERTDOM AND AUTHORITY
Winemaking, 100 Point Rating Scales, Authorship, Auction Attendance
Having not only met, but mastered, all the needs in the previous levels of the Wine Lover’s Hierarchy of Needs, it is at this point that a small group of Wine Lovers actively pursue a driving need to be lifted above their peer group into the realm of “expert” or authority. Pursuing this highest category of needs motivates only the smallest number of Wine Lovers and can take various forms. No matter the form, however, this rare level of needs pursuit is most often accompanied by conspicuous demonstration of the Wine Lover’s self-perceived authority. At this pinnacle of needs, you will often see the Wine Lover attempting to shape the views of other wine lovers, expecting some level of accolades for their efforts. Some motivated by these unique needs spend days amassing evidence of their accomplishment, commonly demonstrated by the accumulation of First Growth Bordeaux, Grand Cru Burgundy, California Cult Cabernets and always far in excess of their most optimistic needs. And occasionally, this wine loving master of their needs will pursue the ultimate challenge and become a creator of their obsession: The Winemaker.
This chart presumes that wine-loverness has an ultimate plateau that’s reached, but I would put forth that there’s still a higher plane of existence (call it eno-nirvana, if you will) that transcends the “expert & authority” level.
Whether caused by an all-knowing inner peace or simply wine burnout, this level of ultra-enlightenment occurs when you’ve surpassed the need to know everything and be your friends’ über wine expert” and are content to drink (not just taste) the wines you enjoy, not the wines the experts tell you that you “should” be drinking. Points become data, not destinations.
A key to this is acknowledging that despite knowing a lot about particular categories of wine, you’ll never know everything about wine (not even everything about the categories you’re attracted to), and rather than feeling like you’ve failed, you bask in the zenlike glow of being at one with your current level of wine knowledge. Being comfortable satiating your curiosity about new (to you) wine regions or producers is also a factor, as is the concept of drinking down your cellar without being overly concerned that you’re drinking up your legacy and reputation.
I’ve been seeing this recently in friends who’ve been collecting wine for a number of years as well in friends who have been in MS, MW, or WSET programs where they’ve needed to remain focused on wine for lengthy periods of time.