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In the News: How Young Buyers are Impacting Winemaking

(image: darlingofourage.files.wordpress.com)

This is not your fathers wine buying.

There is a great little article posted today in SunJournal.com about how the tastes of a small, but extremely influential group of people are impacting the wine trade.

And they're NOT talking about the Robert Parkers of the world, whose tendency to enjoy big, alcohol-laden fruit bombs have influenced wineries the world over to produce 'bomb'-astic wines at all costs in order to chase the high-end of the big wine magazines' point rating systems.

These are 20-something sommeliers and wine directors that work for some of the most well-respected and expensive restaurants in the United States.

And the wines that they're looking for? "Wines that are quirky, regional, with rich background stories..." Wow - definitely NOT your father's fruit bomb style of wine!...

"Their challenge is to find a wine that they're as excited about as the chef is ... about the flavor of his vegetables from the farmers market..."

This is very good news for "old world" style wines from Italy and Spain, which are finding increasing favor with this growing influential set of wine buyers. And it might be bad news for the fruit-bomb makers, who are seeing a growing backlash in the consumer market against these styles of wine.

Now, I've met some of this 20-something sommelier set, and I can tell you that 1) they do prefer regional, exciting wines that offer something unique, 2) they always seek to compliment the chef's food as much as humanly possible, and 3) their buying habits do help to set some trends with winemakers who are seeking to get a foothold into the exclusive high-end restaurant market.

What's also very interesting, at least to the Dude here, is how the article ends. SunJournal.com quotes industry analyst Jon Fredrikson regarding if and how this trend may impact what wines start to fly off the supermarket shelves (as opposed to what is recommended at the tables of the nation's high-end epicureans):

"We way overestimate the knowledge of the American consumer..."

Ouch. Is this true?

Dude's opinion: I can see a great deal of merit in this 'don't-call-it pessimistic-call-it-realistic' view. The fact is that most wine consumers just want a decent wine that they will enjoy, at a fair price. You can't force people to make the jump into serious wine appreciation if they lack the desire to do so. But then again, introducing someone to a quirky, unique wine and in the process expanding their wine knowledge is one of the small pleasures of life for the Dude. I just don't expect everyone to be into that - if you forced your passion for, say, crocheting onto me, I would be finding an excuse to spend a little quality time away from you (like 10 or 12 years worth).

Your thoughts...? Shout `em out in the comments.



Taster B said...

Hi Wine Dude,
I agree, you can't force people to expand their palate if they aren't interested. For me, I've noticed that as the number of wines I've tried has increased my palate has shifted away from a preference for "fruit-bombs" to a preference for something that doesn't taste just like everything else...
I think when it comes to wine appreciation for the masses, the food portion of the equation helps a lot. I think food is more approachable than wine for a lot of people, and if they have a gorgeous dish in front of them and it's paired with a unique wine that compliments the food really well then it can be the equivalent in terms of instant appreciation to what might have otherwise taken tasting 80-100 wines to develop.
Actually, it had been quite a while since I've had a real fruit-bomb and I just had one the other night which made me go "ah...this is what those New World haters are talking about." Yes, now I can understand their objection.

Joe Roberts said...

Thanks taster b - great point about the food. Roasted Lamb + Old Brunello = 5 years of tasting Italian reds ;-)

Dr. Debs said...

I think this is great news. Maybe American consumers don't know as much as we think they do, but they're not as stupid as they're made out to be, either. What this article suggests is a willingness to learn and be adventurous. That can only be good for wine. Thanks, Joe!

Joe Roberts said...

Thanks, dr. debs!

I had to re-read the article to make sure I was clear on what they were saying. They're not claiming the average wine consumer is dumb, just uninformed. And I'd agree with that.

As you say, if there's a willingness to learn, that's half the battle. More & more of those consumers will be coming to the Internet for information so they can become better informed - And that underscores the relevance of folks like us, blogging about the world of wine to help them.

Not that I am totally biased or anything...

Anonymous said...

Good wine is very much about balance. A good wine successfully balances the variables influencing its color, aroma and taste. A wine can be more fully enjoyed when paired with a food that balances well with that wines characteristics. Enjoying wine is also about balance. While it is true that the more you know about wine, the more you can enjoy it, eventually you reach a point of diminishing returns; i.e. the effort to learn more exceeds the additional level of enjoyment gained. Where that point is varies for each of us based on our motivation. A person might only want to order a decent, appropriate wine when dining out, while another might want to impress 1WineDude the next time he comes for dinner. Each of us must find our own point of balance, accept it, and enjoy.

Joe Roberts said...

Well spoken, Willybuoy.

But can we get that advice in haiku format?


Anonymous said...


tasting tipping point
motivation governs choice
all about balance

Joe Roberts said...

Willybuoy-San - you show-off...

Just kidding - I loved it (so did Mrs. Dudette, by the way)!

Anonymous said...

You ask...I most humbly answer. My best to MamaSan.

Ikigai said...

Let's not forget the ever increasing exposure of the internet. More and more wine information is becoming available to the average American consumer.

Maybe Mr. Fredrickson's statement is becoming a touch dated?

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