Does anyone actually read wine data sheets? You know, the one-off sheets that tell you how much titratable acidity, pH and alcohol by volume there is in a particular vintage of wine. I do, geek that I am. For instance, I can tell you that the Hook and Ladder sheet I linked to above is one of the best designed that I’ve seen. But you know what? Who cares! No one reads them but me. And I think I know why no one else reads them, most journalists included: They suck.
Strong words, I know. But let me explain.
Suppose I gave you the following stats:
Batting Average: .292
Home Runs: 6
Runs Batted In: 60
Stolen Bases: 8
What would you think of this player? Would you think he’s maybe a decent player? A good player? Great player? All Star? MVP?
In reality those are the stats of Lip Pike, who in 1872 led all of baseball in home runs and RBI, and was in the top six in stolen bases while playing for the Baltimore Canaries. He also led the league in 1871 and 1873 with a whopping 4 HR. He was a powerhouse. If league officials had been giving out MVP awards at that point in baseball history, Pike surely would have won.
Obviously compared to today’s steriod laced standards, Pike would be hard pressed to get much notice at all. The frame of reference has changed.
And I’m assuming here that as a reader you already have some basic knowledge of baseball statistics to begin with so you can appreciate the example. There are plenty of people who would look at the above stats, shrug their shoulders and say, “No clue.”
Just like they do when they look at wine data sheets.
The problem is one of context. The vast, commodious majority of wine drinkers, even those passionate enough to visit wine country tasting rooms, simply have no idea what the relevant range is for the wine chemistry info that’s provided on data sheets. Worse, they are even murkier as to how something like pH affects what they end up tasting in the bottle. Worst of all, we aren’t doing anything to help them understand.
Eat those ignorant consumers. Eat them all.
Or, why not give them the context they so sorely need in the form of a number line with the relevant ranges for wine already included? Something like this:
Besides just providing raw data, right off the bat the consumer is able to answer the question “Is a pH of 3.7 high or low?” You’ve also provided red and green (perhaps yellow would be better?) color cues to help to give a broad but intuitive sense of what happens to pH as the berry ripens. Itâ€™d be easy to do this with all the usual metrics like TA and ABV etc.
I havenâ€™t seen anyone doing this, but I think it would be a big help in making wine data sheets easier to understand and more worthwhile to produce. By giving the consumer just a little more information, we’re helping to expand their comfort with wine and increasing the appreciation of it at the same time.
Here’s the Photoshop file for the graphic above. If you end up using it or something like it on your sheets, I’d love it if you’d drop me a line and let me know.