“The consumer doesn't know. They think it comes from a guy who farmed his land and made it in his small barrels in his little winery.”
I'm not sure when it happened, but somehow cheap, generic, homogenized commodity wine, is riding a new found wave of popularity. I've seen it blowing up in various social media platforms, tremendous enthusiasm for bathtub purple swill. What is driving this phenomenon, I'm not completely sure, but I do have some ideas. In my mind, there must be something in it, besides fermented grape juice, ah yes, there is, residual sugar.
When I see folks tweeting, Facebooking, Instafaming, about mass produced [commodity] wines, like Chateau Two-by-Four [Kendall Jackson or La Crema] Chardonnay, for example, I cringe. The reason being, there's so much wine diversity out there, why, oh why, settle for the predictable commodity wine? Is it marketing appeal, familiarity, the price, or the cute critter on the label.
Let me go a step further in regards to crass commodity wines; to me, those "kind" of wines are all too similar to a choice between two widely different options. It's more like the choice to either buy farm-raised salmon [blech] or instead of going for the [pricier] "wild-caught" Sockeye there's no comparison. Why so many folks just settle for the farm-raised alternative when it comes to their choice of wine, strikes me as sadly strange.
Any wine consumer who appreciates the well-crafted commodity purple swill or over oaked straw colored liquid, those are not the folks reading this blog or any blog for that matter. In fact, folks who would describe themselves as commodity wine drinkers don't care one bit about how their wine of choice is produced. The average bottom shelf wine drinker does not care one wit where the grapes came from, who the winemaker is, how much toast was on the barrel head, the type yeast, how long it aged, the type of barrel, no, the only thing they know is it's predictable. That kind of consumer, will not bother to read wine reviews of any kind or the related commentary. So why are countless other wine writers, wine blogs, and PR agencies spinning their collective wheels attempting to peddle what amounts to be nothing more than plonk? I for once, don't have any quick smartass opinions to offer, but it again it does strike me as strange.
Personally, I don't mind paying a bit extra for authentic wines with soul, but so many folks do, and they'll not even consider purchasing wines costing more than $10. On the other hand, I'm glad that the vast unwashed masses of vinosapiens out there in the hinterlands of winedom have zero to no interest in purchasing or experiencing wines costing more than ten dollars. I've often said, out of ear shot of customers, please keep on drinking the "keep the lights on" wines, it's the bread and butter of the industry.
One of the most easily overlooked points of his great article on the subject [linked below] is, and I'm paraphrasing, "because American's as a whole drink so much wine, there is no way the small producers we all know and love could keep up with the demand."
Just imagine [a nightmare] for a moment if everyone was drinking the plonk [commodity] wines today, suddenly decided "you know those 5% wine drinkers are right" and they all decided they'd like to acquire the same wines we all know and love. Egad, the demand for the better wines would skyrocket, the prices would go through the roof, and we'd all experience what many do now because of the Chinese interest in the [high-end] wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, the crazy inflation of wine prices and demand would outstrip the supply.
According to an article by Keith Wallace in 2009 "How Wine Became Fast Food" [citing the article] "Since most people like to stick with familiar brands and cheap prices, it’s [Plonk] a necessity. Americans consumed 700 million gallons of wine last year, 80 percent of which sold for less than $10, according to ACNielsen and The Beverage Information Group." Read More.
It's my contention that good food and good wine should not be the rare commodity, but rather it should be a model which we strive to live by; sadly tho, very few vinosapiens, will ever want or desire to live their life that way.
Far be it from me, to tell anyone what to do, you're adults, make your own choices. That said, I'm perfectly fine with the "drink what you like" idea. But you can still expect a bit of [unbeknownst] friendly mockery in regards to your choice to consume the same jug-wines day in and day out, for example, wines like La Crema Chardonnay, Menage a Trois, Three Buck Chuck and a bevy of other formulaic wines made in a similar style.
So it would appear that "fast food" wines continue to have a purpose [who knew] and needed in the greater wine economy at large. It's a tried and true business model "give the people what they and they'll beat a path to your door" type of situation, one stained brightly with Mega Purple. I'm NOT attempting to be disparaging to that segment of the wine community simply for disparagement sake.
But these types of wines do provide an alternative to the 95% of wine [plonk wine consumers] drinkers who will not drink wines over $10, which [IMO] are simply nothing but plonk [please just be honest]. Before anyone gets their nose too far bent out of shape, I know there are exceptions to the rule, but as we all know, exceptions don't make the rule. Now that said, please join me in a loud hip-hip hooray, cheap pedestrian wines are here to stay, rejoice. Can I get a hallelujah and amen?
While many wine drinkers/consumers like you [dear reader] and I are the exceptions, [the 5%] yet I still don't see my choices for discovering wines with the soul, being limited in any way. No instead, I continue to uncover new and exciting regions which produce amazingly affordable wines, which are not produced like a cheap commodity but are still wonderfully convenient to purchase. So again remember life is short, live well and drink well. Until next time sit back, relax and continue to sip long and prosper cheers!