Carrying on from last week’s blog post on whether or not terroir is relevant, I want to address another question that has been the focus of some twitter debate: are people actually interested in wine at all?
One forcefully put viewpoint is that people aren’t, and that this is particularly the case in the UK. The evidence cited? The fact that wine columns have been cut from national newspapers, and that the only remaining consumer wine magazine in the UK doesn’t have many subscribers.
I disagree. Many people out there find wine really interesting. Of course, they are not the majority by any means. Isn’t it daft to expect any subject to be a majority interest? [With perhaps just a few exceptions – Premiership football? The X-factor? Hollywood blockbusters?]
It may just be a minority with an interest in wine, but is still a significant number of people. There are many who like to drink wine, and who are interested in learning and experimentation. Some of them even like to read about wine, but this tends to be just the keenest of the category experts. Though it is a small slice of the population, it’s a big enough group to keep me in work.
What about the evidence of the disappearing columns?
First, this doesn’t reflect the fact a lack of interest about wine as much as it reflects the fact that newspapers get very little advertising revenue from wine companies. Newspapers assign space in their lifestyle sections in rough proportion to who is advertising. The editorial copy in these sections is advertiser bait. Adverts bring in the bulk of newspaper revenue. Wine is a low margin business and its production and sale is highly distributed, with a bewildering number of companies involved. This means there isn’t a lot of wine-related advertising spend.
Second, the sorts of people who like to read about wine are the category experts. Many wine columns are (admirably) aimed quite broadly at non-involved wine consumers. But these people simply don’t like reading about wine. At this level, there’s relatively little you can say about wine, and it’s incredibly difficult to capture the taste of wine in words that mean anything to anyone other than serious wine geeks.
Category experts therefore tend to find wine columns deeply unsatisfying; the same can be said for most consumer wine magazines, whose attempts to appeal to a broad church mean that they often lack the depth and interest to hold the attention of the very people who would bother reading them in the first place.
I should also add that it’s a mistake to confuse lack of interest in reading about wine with lack of interest in wine. Lots of people love to experience wine when they are given the opportunity to taste the stuff, and discuss it in a fun setting. There are probably lots of people who, given the chance, would become category experts/involved consumers if they were able to experience wine. But until you have been given the chance to experience wine, words about wine won’t have much meaning, will they?