I made a pretty impassioned plea a couple posts back arguing that educating consumers is the key to driving demand for wine. Sounds pie in the sky wonderful, I know. Let’s educate the world! Change, for the future!
Of course the devil is in the details. First off people have to be open to being educated. Then the material needs to be presented in an interesting and memorable way, and that’s not easy. Remember your High School Chemistry teacher? Exactly.
As much as I believe in online wine sales and the power of blogs and social media, the best chance for real education is in the tasting room. People are there because they want to know more and, if given the right information in the right way, formerly casual wine drinkers can be turned into well-informed brand ambassadors.
In fact there’s no doubt at all that face to face interaction in tasting rooms remains the best way for wineries to educate consumers and, as a result, sell more wine. But does it have to end there?
Education Outside the Tasting Room
But there are other opportunities for wineries to make wine information more easily comprehensible. Robert Parker revolutionized wine ratings by using a system of scoring that people already had a high comfort level with: the 100 point scale.
I wrote back in 2006 in a post titled How Wine Data Sheets Should Be that producers can do the same thing with the various chemistry data that we collect about our wines.
It seems pretty obvious to me: If you’re going to provide the information because you think it has value, why not make it accessible? Why not put the numbers into context that folks can instantly grasp. Like this:
So far only Twisted Oak has embraced such a system. Jeff even improved on the whole idea by adding descriptors to each side of the number line, giving even more context. Twisted Oak’s Geek Sheets are the best in the biz in my opinion, and it would go a long way toward educating consumers everywhere if more wineries used a number line to convey the difference between a TA of 3 g/L and one of 7 g/L.
Proof That Context Is Vitally Important
And if you think that context isn’t important, you’re just talking crazy. Look at the recent research just published by Harbertson et al in the latest issue of the AJEV regarding tannin concentration in red wines. Describing the study, here’s what they had to say:
The purpose of this study was to establish normative ranges for tannin in commercially available red wines…a key undertaking because no single winery laboratory would be likely to perform such work and make the results widely available.
A perfect example of public funding for applied wine science. And all aimed at giving the industry a larger context for understanding the results of the tannin assays they have run on their wines.
My question is: if producers need this information to understand the chemistry behind our wines, why the heck aren’t we also giving it to consumers? This is low hanging fruit, and we should grab it.
Based on Harbertson’s research on pinot, I can add this cool little visual aid to Capozzi’s slate of wine data graphics:
If you know of any other producers educating consumers in creative ways outside the tasting room, especially about wine quality, please leave a comment and let me know. They need to be recognized and encouraged!