Friday, April 29, 2005

The culture of wine

I've often pondered the reasons some people reject wine as part of the North American daily routine. There are so many different objections to wine. There seems to be a thread that ties the consumption of wine to hedonistic life styles. Essentially the myths created around wine, both positive and negative, continue to haunt the product. Tom Wark started me thinking about the culture of wine.

I believe a culture of wine (where moderate consumption is common, accepted and an unremarkable daily event) can be achieved in two ways: market education or carrot and stick assimilation. Let me explain.

From my days in retail, I can recall people's reactions to some of my more 'liberal' suggestions regarding the consumption of wine. These were not wine people - these were tourists and visitors from places (geographic and mental) where wine was rare. Maybe at a wedding or once a month with a spaghetti dinner. Opening a bottle for them was a big deal. Pull down the shades and cancel all appointments.

So when I would say something like,
"This wine is a great everyday wine; very versatile and ideal with lighter foods at lunch or supper",
I would get looks that alternated between bewilderment, shock, amusement and rejection. There was no culture of wine in these people. I might as well have asked them to create a daily ritual of bestiality. Perhaps I exaggerate, but I think you get my point.

These are the same people who don't think twice about cracking open a can of carbonated, caffeine-laden, flavoured sugar water to refresh themselves or accompany a meal. There's a culture of acceptance and in the case of soda, it's been manufactured over a century. There was a time when a cola beverage was marketed as a tonic. It's true; you do get a zip from drinking a beverage laced with cocaine. Since that time, carbonated refreshment beverages' image has been carefully honed to be wholesome and casual. Just part of everyday life. That's market education or some might say, manipulation.

In the case of Europe, the culture of wine was established by the carrot and stick method. Over centuries. I'm serious. People always think that the Romans conquered the world with their superior armies, efficient bureaucracy and a penchant for building sustainable infrastructure. Maybe these factors were part of the success. More importantly, the Romans would always bring their own wine. They would cut the local water with it. The soldiers would avoid becoming ill. As any general will tell you, healthy soldiers fight better and longer than soldiers with disrupted bowels. If you're feeling poopy you're not ready to take on the barbarians.

Years later, in countries like France, wine consumption was commonplace. Was it because the wine was so good it was impossible to resist? Were they forced to drink by royal decree? Was it fashionable? No, no and no. The water was no good. Sewage was an issue, to put it mildly. Life was short and brutish. Fermented grape juice made things seem slightly better. The carrot was the buzz, the stick was the threat of the plague.

So, short of poisoning the well, I think the wine biz should embark on a 50 year visionary plan to make wine an everyday event. All the bases have to be covered. Only a certain part of our audience will respond the to 'health' issues. The industry has to cover that and the sexy bits. We've focused too much on the sexy bits. Wine on this continent has been linked to seduction and hedonistic lifestyle to the point that there's a subliminal backlash. That's where carbonated beverages might have gone. But now it's everyday. That's how wine must go. Just like the soda pop dudes, it's the real thing. Always. The pause that refreshens.

Maybe then when I suggest to a couple from Coyote Droppings, Alberta that a glass of Pinot with that Wednesday night casserole might be a good idea I won't get a look like I just impregnated their teenage daughter.
Right there.
In front of them.
In a position that's not common to them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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