One of the problems with making blog entries just a few times a week is that other bloggers will beat me to the story. It’s the price a busy guy must pay.
My task, should I choose to take it, is to cover a story from a unique angle and so, let me try it.
The story of which I speak is the recent one about a study of 21 people that seems to prove that when it comes to wine, price is more important than anything else about the stuff.
After dealing with wine customers for so many years (I don’t any longer) all I can say about the study is: tell me something I hadn’t known!
On some of the self-serving, supposedly savvy wine forum Web sites, I’ve read posts by people who wouldn’t know a QPR from an FBI; that’s because they hardly ever go to quality/price/ratio. To these people, nothing below their arbitrary dollar value is worth tasting—it can’t possibly be any good at that price!
We like to think that those mentioned above are missing a lot, but they really aren’t. As the study showed, it isn’t the wine that’s giving pleasure. A section of our brain stimulates perceptions of pleasure; apparently, for certain people it takes only dollar signs.
To me, the brain reference is a polite way of saying that these people neither think about nor understand their motivations, at least when it comes to the sensory pleasures of wine. This is why evaluating wines blind often turns up surprising results; it forces us to think about the wine, and to think about our sensory preferences instead of our status or insecurities.
Back when I must have been desperate, I held down a position as a sales representative for a reasonably major East Coast wine distributor. The company demanded that sales reps attend weekly meetings. At these meetings, our wine suppliers came to us in a revolving door manner—they flew in from wherever, gave us an hour pep talk and a tasting, screamed at our managers for not selling their wines to the exclusion of the hundreds of others in the portfolio, and then flew off to another state to repeat the performance.
Mostly, the visitors were brokers who handled the dirty work of selling wine to distributors. Sometimes, the producer made the visit, especially when a new wine or new marketing direction was on the horizon.
It was at these meetings when my cynicism concerning the wine world was given its boost, especially when a slickly dressed, diamond-studded owner of an up-coming cult wine gave the pep talk.
Mostly, the talk centered on marketing and wine pricing: how the product would be “placed” and backed up with ads or whatever. What the wine tasted like seemed a distant secondary consideration. How the taste and wine quality related to the price wasn’t even on the table to discuss.
I usually got myself into trouble when the time came to taste the new wine. I had this annoying habit—annoying to the recipient—of asking questions in place of issuing oohs, aahs, and platitudes of overwhelming unquestioned enthusiasm for the wine. But if I was going to sell the stuff, I wanted to know more than just its price. Often, I found myself wanting to know why it tasted like a milkshake or a tree forest instead of wine.
After I figured out that the whole charade wasn’t really about wine, especially after a few pointed conversations with the sales manager and the big boss, each asking me to shut up at the meetings, I quit the job.
The marketers behind those wines already knew what the recent study points out. The question is: When will consumers of overpriced wines become secure enough to taste all kinds of wine and trust their palates rather than that little corner of the brain that plays with their perceptions?
After selling to, discussing, and arguing with many wine consumers, I can say without hesitation that I doubt most ever will. Using all your brain cells is a private affair, and a little work, too. Being seen throwing money around is much more impressive.
This entry’s wine:
A few years ago, I spent two weeks in the southeast of France, in an area near the northern ridges of the Pyrenes Mountains. The people there are known as Catalon, a reference to an historical section of the Mediterranean that is shared by southern France and northern Spain.
In Spain, Catalunya is home to ten wine regions, the most famous I suppose are Priorat, Penedes, and Tarragona. Catalunya is also home to Cava, the sparkling wine of Spain.
In 2001, Spanish authorities allowed a wider DO to the overall area known as Catalunya. When that DO is on a wine label, the only way to know the composition of the wine is to gain access from the producer. The Bohigas Crianza 2003 for this entry is likely composed of Cariñena (Carignane), Tempranillo, and Merlot.
Anyone remembering the 2003 European vintage will remember the heat. In Catalunya, I am told that it hardly rained throughout the growing season and harvest was early. This Crianza certainly bore witness to those facts.
The aroma was truly earthy; bramble came to mind, as in a raspberry patch. The smell of cedar must have been from the oak treatment.
On the palate, the wine was gritty, not in a bad way. Instead of drinking this wine, my tendency was to masticate it. After chewing it, came the swallow and a 12 second finish that left me with cottonmouth, plus a massive hit of chocolate—ah, those sunny-days of tannin build up.
At 14% alcohol, the wine gave the lie to a blanket statement that high alcohol is too hot and offensive. The alcohol did not stand out on any level, neither in aroma nor taste. Although the tannins are way over the top right now, I liked the wine.
Unfortunately, the tannins got in the way when I paired the wine with chorizo and yellow rice.
Bohiga 2003 Crianza
January, 2008. All rights reserved.