Since the Drink Local Conference the other day, I have been thinking more about the 3rd session which discussed why many people focus on local food and not local wine. I think it’s a much larger issue–not one of local vs. local but rather one of quality vs. quality.
Working in a retail wine shop that also sells cheese, wild caught seafood and local free range meat and poultry gives me a good perspective on how people view food and wine. Throwing the idea of local wine out the door, lets just think of quality products. It amazes me when customers come in and spend a premium on either beef or seafood to buy local or wild caught, but then want me to pick out a wine that is $6. Obviously a disconnect between what they expect from food vs. wine (and what they are willing to spend). They think, and I agree, that wild caught seafood is better for them and better tasting than farm raised. They don’t hold the same opinion with wine, however. Paraphrasing this typical customer, “It’s $6, it tastes good and I probably wouldn’t know the difference between this and a $20 wine.” I’m all about drinking what you like, that is what wine IS about, but why not require high quality for all things you ingest?
I think it comes down to how wine is talked about and again a disconnect. Tasting notes for wines usually never talk about how a wine is produced, and frankly for the 2500 wines we carry it’s hard to remember them all. If people knew that the cost reflected in their wine was related to hand picked, double sorting, extended maceration and barrels versus wood chips they might think twice. If consumers equated this the same way they do local, organic, free range, etc. you might see a different situation. But again maybe not, it’s more than a 2 minute conversation explaining the difference between mass produced and artisinal wines.
As a retailer part of that responsibility is on me, educating people about the product they are buying. At the end of the chain though, a lot of times people are set on a fixed price range for vino and you don’t want to up sell them a whole heck of a lot.
Unfortunately my insight stops there as I don’t have a complete solution for local vs. local or quality vs. quality. The discussion and education needs to continue through the entire “wine chain” if you will, as I am sure it already is in some situations.
Let me know your thoughts.