Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Too Many Fake Fendis - Trusting your Palate when Purchasing Wine

I'm not sure if I am out of tasting practice (much like my muscles are out of swimming practice), or perhaps, dare I say it, my taste buds are bored. The majority of wines I have tasted lately have left me wanting more and wondering if wine consumers are settling in our wine preferences, or is one mass palate continually being catered to?

Like the fashion industry, the wine industry, unfortunately, is subject to fads. Certain varietals and styles become in season. Look at, for example, the success of overly oaked chardonnay or Pinot Noir after the movie Sideways. I am not saying these wines do not have their place and, in fact, have played a significant role to increase the number of Americans who are drinking wine on a regular basis. But has the American palate become comfortable and undemanding resulting in mediocre wines being production?

Courtesy of Yapp Brothers
Now I'm sure you are asking, "where is she buying her wine from?!" I will admit, I have been exploring more of what the grocery stores in my area have to offer. But when you look at who makes the majority of wine purchasing discussions in this country, it is women. And where do women shop? The grocery store, a one stop market for all their families' needs. Looking closer at the trend of wines on the shelf priced between $10-$15 they tend to be mediocre at best. If this is where the majority of wine buying decisions are happening, why is mediocre acceptable? Why does one trend such as, heavily oaked chardonnay, dominate the shelves catering to one particular palate?

Perhaps purchasing decisions are made based on fear. Fear of looking like a wine novice and wanting to drink whats "in." Gravitating to a certain style or brand because so and so said, "its good!" Much the like the point system drives sales of 92 award winning wines, a trend begins to dominate the market resulting in plunk producers trying to copy the style to make a quick buck much like buying a knock-off Fendi purse. These wines get marked at a reasonable price in order to increase sales and the bottom line, forget about the quality of product.

As much as I praise the point system for coming into play when consumers needed help to demystify wines, making them measurable and a way to categorize, it has also created a culture dictating what we should be drinking and doesn't really educate consumers. Consumers should untimely trust their own palates and use additional resources such as Sommeliers, local wine shops, blogs, books, social media, apps etc. to learn.

Wine is about an experience, it is something to be shared, it should evoke emotion. So maybe I have been buying too many fake Fendis lately and hoping to get the real deal, its obviously not working. My palate is bored and awaiting the next trend. With that being said, I really hope the next trend is to follow what you like but to also have high quality from around the world available at the local grocery store. Why can't the local grocery store be a local wine store that sells Vouray, Bugurndies and Chenin Blanc?

So I ask my readers, what resources do you use when making wine purchasing decisions? How do you educate yourself on wine? What trends/fads do you see in the wine industry both good and bad? Do you feel influenced by these trends?

Charlotte :)


  1. There is a secret held pretty tightly in the industry, a good chunk of the wines on grocery store shelves are made by only 4 or 5 companies. These huge corporations rely on their grocery store brands as their bread and butter. There is a ton of market research being conducted every day to tell us wine marketers what people want, what sells, and how they want it packaged. As any good company does, we provide the consumers with what we think they want. We do a good job, they buy it. We don't do a good job it ends up at trader joes for $3.

    However, these same companies make great wines as well, they just don't move in grocery stores. So I guess the marketing answer to your thesis is that the consumer is driving these boring wines, much as the consumer drives quality in any product.

  2. Right, I am aware that most wines in the grocery store are made primarily by a small group of companies as you pointed out. I have worked closely with a couple of these companies and I know there are some great wines among them. I would just love to see a shift in marketing that doesn't tell customers what they think they want but rather works to educate them and doesn't just cater to what everyone else is drinking but rather finds a way to make it a little more personalized.

    Thank you for reading and commenting Krispin! Cheers.

  3. Nice! I agreed and am guilty of buying HOC at the grocery store only to balance out my expensive special occasion reds :)

    How do I get most of my wine education?? From my own personal Sommelier of course (He! He!)

    Have a lovely day, cheers, T. :)