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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wine Professionals' Disconnect with Consumers

The wine professional: owners, wine makers, judges, writers, and many other wine advocates sit in the small area of premium wines. That is, most of their time seems to be spent with the $30-up bottles.

The average price for a bottle of wine purchased in the U.S. just passed $10 for the first time. The fact that's it's only ten bucks probably comes at a shock to the premium wine crowd. The average shopper (meaning greater than 80% of the purchasers) get a bottle while grocery shopping to have with dinner that night.

This typical consumer walks down an aisle filled with bottles from the ground-level shelf where the cheapest stuff is placed to the top shelf where many people can't reach and safely pull down a glass bottle. There are hundreds of different and sometimes confusing labels. These labels are full of various info like the varietal, vintage date, where the grapes were grown, and maybe some wine maker's notes. Most will look at the types of grapes in the wine and the price, but that's it.

Some might even be in a bit of a hurry after work so they just grab something convenient like from a display at the end of the aisle. Realistically, how many people will spend 20 minutes going through the collection of wines available? This can certainly happen in a wine shop, but that's a small minority of wine purchases.

For regular wine consumers who drink wine at least once a month about 12% of them will spend $30 or more. This means most of us in the wine biz are hung up on the premium wine category where the minority of the shopping is done. It seems like the inexpensive wine market isn't really being served. In contrast, restaurant reviewers spend a lot of time with the fancy dinner spots, but you can also find them listing their favorite burger or pizza joints.

A quick Google search finds reviews for wines under $10, including a list form Wines & Spirits magazine. I don't know how many of those can be found at your local Kroger or Safeway. There are a few reliable web sites that will give their opinion on the best wines available at Trader Joe's--a pretty good place to find inexpensive everyday wines.

What you probably won't find is a write-up of an eight dollar Spanish wine letting you know the flavors, suggested food pairings, and availability all done by a professional full-time wine writer. You won't find sommeliers with knowledge of these wines and able to make suggestions on what to buy for the meal you may be having with it.

I wonder if Gallo could have someone on staff that could make these suggestions for their wines and if a consumer would trust their judgment since they are only representing their brands? Would it be viable to allow consumers to call Gallo, tell them where they live and have this somm-trained wine expert make suggestions of which of their wines to buy and where to get them? (Gallo owns over 50 different labels and makes hundreds of different wines).

It's about making it easier for the consumer to make a reasonably quick and informed choice. When I find myself looking at an unknown bottle (of wine or beer) I often resort to Internet searches while I'm standing in the store aisle. Yeah, that's kind of geeky, but I want to spend my money wisely. Of course, I have to trust the people doing the reviewing.