Well, maybe “hate”‘s a strong word. I’ve just never had a wine that I’d prefer over a good beer. I’ll keep trying though. You know, for science.
What I do hate is the wine industry. Bunch of namby-pamby grape gropers whose bottles collect dust and who spit instead of swallow. Which is why my interest was piqued by a blog post (What the Wine Industry Can Learn from Craft Beer) suggesting that craft beer-style innovation would be a boon to the wine industry. It’s a good read; check it out.
What the article fails to address is the fundamental difference between beer and wine consumers. Beer drinkers fall into two fairly distinct categories: craft beer drinkers and non-craft beer drinkers. Wine drinkers also fall into two categories: expensive wine drinkers and inexpensive wine drinkers. The difference is that cheap wine drinkers want the same products as the expensive wine drinkers, just lower-cost versions. Economies of scale dictate that the craft wineries charge higher prices, whether their product is substantially different or not. This would be especially true for any winery bold enough to test-market a small batch of something truly innovative.
Besides, what does innovation look like in the wine industry? Fermenting Pinot with a Chardonnay yeast? Scandalous. The problem isn’t that genuine innovation is impossible, but that it’s undesirable. Of course a vintner could make a Passionfruit Pinot Grigio. It just isn’t clear that anyone would want it.
Craft brewers are innovators for the simple reason that craft beer drinkers don’t feel beholden to tradition, whereas wine – at least wine as we know it – is nothing but tradition. Demand drives supply, and the consumers who are amassing five-figure cellars full of craft wines value tradition. Seriously unconventional wines aren’t impossible, but the market is certainly unproven. The shoe is on the other foot. If craft wineries do succeed in creating this new market, it will be by emulating the brewers they’ve spent the past few centuries turning up their noses at. And that’s a thought that any beer drinker should love.
Then again, what do I know? I hate wine.