Monday, September 25, 2006

Drink More Wine! (Or Why Elitism is Bad)

From The Good Grape comes a great post on wine snobs and elitism based on another great post from The Zinquisition. It's true. Elitist wine snobs hurt wine for all of us. And ultimately, they could hurt wine for themselves. While I certainly cop to being a food snob (when I'm not posting about the joys of corndogs or Frito pie), I'm a huge believer that good wine is what you like -- sometimes that particular year or even day. Learning about wine is a life-long endeavor and people who try to tell you how wrong your tastes are probably don't know as much as you think. Ditto for people who try to tell you that all wine from certain parts of the world is crap or that certain varietals are low-brow. From Zinquisition:

I'm deeply saddened to see the continued trend of elitism that pervades many blogs and those who comment on them. Don't get me wrong, I love a great bottle of wine more than the next guy, but as I have mentioned many times before, the elitism of the wine culture creates a real "barrier to entry" for many now-insecure consumers who would otherwise happily drink whatever fairly generic varietal they get on sale from their local megamart. I read numerous comments like "well, I wish people wouldn't drink yellow tail" and "most wine is insipid plonk not worthy of being poured down my drain" and "only certain regions of the world should even be producing wine at all (followed by a highly subjective assessment of climate, topography, and soils)".

He goes on to say:

Basic Economics tells us that scarcity drives prices up (basic supply/demand curve). If we were to eliminate all "generic" wines, the resulting scarcity would pretty much destroy the wine business for most of us. Why? Simply because the economies of scale in production and distribution would be completely lost. Wines would be $30 and up and would only be available in limited outlets as the now lower profits from broad market distribution would make it uneconomic to sustain the current infrastructure. Wine would become as popular as soju, sold regionally (not nationally or internationally in the current sense), and be relegated to even greater obscurity.

Think for a moment about how bad the world would be if good wine were hard to get(or just imagine you live in a dry county or control state!). Think about how good we really have it and consider it your duty (as I do) to get more people drinking wine (of whatever kind).

It's a a great point. If all cheap plonk went away tomorrow, what would the rest of us drink? Good wine? Yes, but *expensive* good wine. The mass-production and mass interest in wine helps us all. Or, as Jeff at The Good Grape says:

And while I don't consider myself as a part of the elitism, his overall point about elitism and scarcity resonates. I recently saw a stat that said that 2/3’s of all wine in the U.S. comes from four companies—Gallo, Constellation, The Wine Group, and Bronco.

Were it not for those fine folks, producing technically correct wine in most cases, the smaller, terroir driven wines would be prohibitively expensive for most people on a day-to-day basis. The Zinquisition is a good read, and a good reminder that Yellowtail (which I have slagged in the past) is a decent if not good product that meets a customer need.

And, now, what we can really hope for is that the current Australian wine glut creates not 8 million cases of Yellowtail, but about 14 million and hopefully that frees up a lot of the better quality stuff at the $14 - $16 price point for me.

It's something for all of us to think about before the next dinner where you find yourself extolling the virtues of your favorite French red while slamming Australian chardonnays to the low-brow hoi-poiloi who had the audacity to bring a $6 bottle of Fat Bastard. It's also a reminder that every time my blood pressure goes up when I see a case of Three-Buck Chuck walking out of Trader Joe's, I need to remember that maybe, just maybe, those people might be back to try a $5.99 bottle next time. And, that as long as they keep buying Charles Shaw, it helps keep the market moving so I can enjoy decent Napa cabs at an under $20 price point.


Pat Baude said...

Well said! Ernest Gallo used to tell the story that, in the beginning, he took identical wines to New York, selling one for 5 cents a bottle, the other for 10. The latter sold out but he couldn't move the first. I guess that's how he became a billionaire. The difference between decent wine and none at all is huge: that between decent wine and expensive wine is often an illusion.

braingirl said...

Thanks, Pat! And I've added Full 2 Bung under Indiana Food Blogs. I love your wine posts!