Aim lower

June 16th, 2009

Brand presence.

Brand presence.

I really do not think of myself as all that smart. Yes, there’s that whole med school and looking at brains for a living thing. But it doesn’t take much more than an IQ of 100 and discipline and persistence to get through med school and subsequent specialty training.

I suppose that my self-perception distorts my understanding of the intelligence and aptitude of the average citizen consumer. It’s probably safe to say that I have forgotten the level of medical knowledge possessed by Jane and John Patient since I don’t interact with patients on a regular basis (I’m not a real doctor, I just look at pictures, as my son once famously said).  Every once in a while, though, a sobering reality check comes along.

Case in point: this British health survey (also here if the article is no longer available at

The upshot is this: of 722 people in Great Britain, less than half could identify the heart and its location on a diagram, a third could correctly identify the lungs, and 38% could identify the stomach. The results are likely to be the same (and possibly worse, as some speculate) on this side of the big pond.

“Good jeebus!”, I thought to myself. “It’s the 21st century!” So we’re a bit of a ways away from the Star Trek utopia (where all of humanity is socially, economically and intellectually more advanced) but this level of ignorance is troubling.

Things are not so horrible when it comes to recognition of the world’s wine regions (the full exploration of this study of brand recognition is here).

One could argue that Jane or John Doe should not be expected to know human anatomy, but this anatomic knowledge is not esoteric. Additionally, wine is a hobby and hobbyists tend to actively seek and absorb facts and minutia about their subjects of interest. Finally, one could point out that wine tends to be enjoyed and explored by those with more disposable income (which generally comes with a higher level of education) and possibly more free time.

The geeky wine enthusiasts make up a rather small portion of the wine buying public. It is their less-aware counterparts who determine the wine knowledge reference points for a whole population. The study by Wine Intelligence did not explore more detailed knowledge of wine styles or grape varieties. It probed subjects’ awareness of and associations with different wine regions.

I’m curious, though, how many mainstream wine consumers could identify the main varieties in production in the different wine regions of the world and how those wines smell and taste (or how they should smell and taste).

When I conduct reader surveys, I use the following self-rating of wine competence to understand a bit more about each respondent and the group as a whole:

Wine illiterate: Understand there is red wine and white wine.

Novice: Can name just a few varieties and regions or countries.

Intermediate: Can name major regions, countries, varieties. Can name at least one producer from 3 or more different countries or regions.

Advanced: Can name and recognize most regions, countries and varieties. Can name 2 or 3 producers each country or regions.

Expert: Can name and recognize all wine regions regions, varieties and name more than 3 producers for each country or region.

I won’t disclose the distribution of respondents to my surveys because it may affect the way future respondents answer. However, I am curious if these categories are realistic. Or…should I be setting the bar lower?


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5 Responses to “Aim lower”

  1. Dylan Says:

    I think Wine Illiterate is a good start on the scale.

    I also cannot shake how troubling that lack of physical awareness is. Not only are those basic things to know, but they’re most likely useful in a patient-doctor relationship when trying to explain a problem or pain that requires assistance. The more both of you can speak the same language, the more easily, and quickly, a solution could be reached.

  2. Jonathan Kagan Says:

    “it doesn’t take much more than an IQ of 100 and disciple…” Disciple??? You mean, ‘discipline’, we assume. Relying on spell-checker too much? Many people today are less concerned about memorizing things (or, apparently, proofing their work) as long as they can look them up (or run some software) when needed. While it is hard to believe that the location of the heart is, apparently, something that is falling out of ‘common knowledge’, what difference does it really make? Seriously. And, to Dylan, knowing where your heart is has nothing to do with a patient being able to localize pain. You guys should stick to wine, and check your spelling before someone calls YOU an illiterate. Another piece of wine snobbery we could do without.

  3. Thomas Pellechia Says:


    Add a sixth.

    geek: foremost authority ;)

  4. Larry Stanton Says:

    Dr. Art(just so your kid doesn’t make you feel so bad when he says you don’t actually treat patients)…add a 7th

    blushers: think all wine is mixed with 7up

    ps: haven’t heard, but hope the knee is doing better, Art. Oh, and being a doc doesn’t require more than an IQ of 100 and discipline? Huh, i resent…err…resemble that remark.

  5. John Kelly Says:

    Arthur: and apparently you need to add an 8th – wine blog trolls: don’t know dick about wine but spend their time criticizing. Sweet.