Every once in a while someone utters a phrase so pithy, poignant and potent that it becomes a veritable font of ideas. Yesterday, Steve Heimoff made such a statement in the discussion thread to his post about Demystifying wine: “The only problem with demystifying wine is that, once the mystique is gone, certain wineries won’t be able to charge as much.”
Assuming that demystification means “debunking myths”, “dispelling misconceptions”, “removing the intimidation” and “educating”, that statement is true. But all such posits have caveats and contingencies.
In our bling-oriented society, people often pay more for the story of the wine than for the quality of the wine. If the BS of marketing was stripped away, and consumers knew what makes for a quality wine, conceivably we would see a lot less $2,000-plus bottles of wine on the market.
Certainly, when an average consumer learns that there is less romance or magic and more food science behind the bottle of wine they are about to enjoy, they are more likely to see it as a product and not some magical elixir which was begotten of wind, sun and soil. Would they enjoy the wine less?
Assuming that if the vast majority of the wine-buying public were to see wine as a product and to separate the quality of the stuff in the bottle from the hype and celebrity surrounding the producer, their enjoyment and preferences might shift. Would the laws of supply and demand still apply? Would other styles of wine become the new cults?
Most people also don’t like being told that what they like or enjoy is somehow “wrong” or that the wine they just adore, and for which they paid serious money, is not worth the price.
Additionally, nobody likes admitting that they are a follower and that some of their choices may be suggested (if not dictated) by others. Nobody wants to admit that they follow trends in spite of their own preferences.
Nobody likes their belief systems challenged or undermined – be it beliefs about the way society operates, wine, life or the existence of a divine being and an afterlife.
For those reasons, almost nobody in the American wine industry is willing to step up and say that revered, celebrated wines are often inferior to the more affordable and, at times, more obscure offerings. It may be a case of bread and circuses, but it keeps the cash rolling in.
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