The human brain is an amazingly persuasive organ. Feed it the right information and it will send out all kind of confusing messages.
This is what modern marketing is all about. Nobody advertises wine as being fermented grape juice that tastes rather pleasant and makes you a little light-headed. We all want to see wine as part of a lifestyle, so we advertise it as “Three centuries of gracious Cape living,” or “relaxed outdoor fun in good company.”
And once our brains tell us we’re about to taste a sip of gracious living our palates get themselves lined up for something special.
And we do taste gracious living.
When we see a cheeky label with a smiling giraffe on it, we immediately think “fun and frivolity” and suddenly we’re tasting in carefree party mode.
And – sure enough — it is fun and frivolous.
I wonder how a regal Chateau Mouton Rothschild would fare at a tasting if it were served in a clear PET screw-cap bottle.
Would you approach it with the necessary reverence, or take a slug and say: ‘”Hey, nice plonk!”
This is partly why blind tastings can be so misleading. You don’t know what to expect. There’s just a plain wine-glass in front of you. Do you approach it with reverence or just cheerful anticipation?
If you’re expecting three centuries of gracious lifestyle you may be disappointed by the wine. If you’re expecting something cheap and cheerful you may find a big, serious wine rather tannic and gloomy.
Marketers know this and offer us the clues we need to set our brains on the right track.
The bottle itself makes quite a difference. Bottles vary enormously in style and character.
I recently weighed two empty bottles out of interest.
The first had held Snow Mountain 2009 Syrah (from Nabygelegen Private Cellar) and weighed little more than half the Haskell bottle’s weight, at 600gm.
Both wines, I hasten to say, were delightful. I would have been proud to serve either to wine-loving guests.
But I had, subconsciously, approached each wine with a different expectation.
I expected the Haskell to be great. It was.
I was delighted and surprised to find the Snow Mountain great, which it undoubtedly was.
The planet-saving wineries might brag about their eco-friendly, ultra-light, energy-conserving bottles, but will the consumers take them seriously?