I sometimes wonder if wine producers actually study the reasons people buy – or don’t buy – their wines.
How many wine drinkers actually care a hoot whether a wine has been awarded 92 points by the sainted Robert Parker?
Or whether a wine has won a silver medal in the Uzbekistan Wine Challenge?
Almost every wine cellar is anxious to publicise the news that their wine received a gold medal at the London Wine and Spirit Competition or the Concours Mondeal in Brussels, or the Trophy Wine Show, The SA Terroir Wine Competition, The Michelangelo Awards, the ABSA Pinotage Top 10 Competition or the Veritas Competition.
And the rest!
We wine writers are constantly bombarded with facts like these. Sometimes we pass them on to what we believe are our adoring readers.
A survey of wine buyers in the UK some years ago showed that almost none of them actually read wine magazines or wine articles in newspapers.
So what sells wine?
Apparently price and pretty labels account for 90% of wine sales.
Bear in mind that most wines are sold in supermarkets these days. They’re bought by people who want a reasonable wine to go with the coronation chicken they’re cooking that evening.
And they want to spend “not more than R30, for goodness sake. You can get a very decent wine at that price.”
They know they want a dry white wine, or an off-dry white or a nice fruity red to go with the pizza. Then it’s a matter of price.
“Oh, this is a pretty label. Let’s try it.”
I regularly have friends come to me and say things like: “Hey, I discovered an absolute bargain at LCD the other day. They’re selling out Blue Cow Cabernet Sauvignon at nine rands a bottle. And it’s quite drinkable! A bit rough, maybe, but not too bad.”
We wine writers like to think our readers are anxiously awaiting our opinions of the latest R800–a-bottle release from Elgin, or the superb wood-fermented Chardonnay from Paarl at R500 a bottle.
Maybe we’re impressing our wine-writing colleagues, but very few other people care a damn.
Give it a pretty label and a bargain price and it will sell.
And I may have written myself out of a job.
Photograph: Douglas Green