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Monday musing: Nothing like tasting it yourself

Details from “Project Genome,” the study that revealed all about wine “image seekers,” help tie together last week’s posts about training robots to taste wine, coming up with a tasting vocabulary, and “discovery” in the marketplace.

Beer companies should be just as concerned about “overwhelmed” shoppers as winemakers — maybe more, because beer is supposed to be the friendly-no-pretenses product, right? And Project Genome found that nearly one in four (23%) of wine shoppers feel overwhelmed. As a result they buy less than their share (13%) of wine.

Rows and rows of beer

Constellation CEO Jose Frernandez offered his take on the results: “We’ve under-communicated to these [Overwhelmed] consumers. … If we do nothing, today’s Overwhelmed will be tomorrow’s Overwhelmed.”

He went on to suggest the fact that most people who work in the wine industry are Enthusiasts may account for the industry’s failure to understand Overwhelmed consumers. Enthusiasts account for 12% of buyers but buy 25% of the wine. They walk the walk, but they also talk the talk.

And maybe that’s not always the best thing.

I thought of this yesterday when a friend was over helping me fix our pinball machine. He likes to hang out when I brew beer, and that’s how he got started making his own wine. Nothing fancy, but good enough to win a couple of ribbons in the State Fair. He keeps Coors Light in the fridge at home, but something else is a welcome treat. I know that he enjoys a touch of diacetyl in some beers, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is as hoppy as he likes, that he thinks sour sucks (that could be a lambic or a badly packaged beer), and that Samuel Adams Cream Stout hits the spot.

So when I hand him a beer I don’t suggest he should be looking for tropical notes, toffee-like flavors or — heaven forbid — aromas of newly-mown lawn. I just hand him the beer. He likes it or he doesn’t.

This is hardly new. It has been happening in brewpubs for more than 25 years, in beer bars that offer sampling sizes, at beer festivals … communication in its most basic form.

– From the Omaha City Weekly: “Over the past year the quality of Omaha’s beer scene has improved greatly. While not every bar, restaurant and retail store has jumped on board a great deal have increased their selection of craft beer.” Did you really envision there would be a time we would be identifying the Belgian beer of Omaha? (It’s St Bernardus Abt 12, BTW.)

– That was some line Saturday at Port Brewing/Lost Abbey for the release for The Angel’s Share.

9 Responses to Monday musing: Nothing like tasting it yourself

  1. SteveH March 17, 2008 at 7:16 am #

    Isn’t it blasphemy to be drinkin’ the angel’s share?

  2. Alan March 17, 2008 at 8:48 am #

    Not blashphemy so much as short sighted if one’s eternal expectations are aimed towards to up more than the down.

    On the informing, ought that information be available even if it is not always provided? There is an associated thought that what is called information need not be marketing. When I say a beer over a certain price needs some ‘splaining, I mean it needs back story. Don’t tell me it’s off-centered. That is like saying it is “new and improved.” But definitely tell me all the date what is on the Rogue and Southern Tier bottles as well as why that is or should be important to me. That backstory ought to be at hand if the beer is worth the price being claimed and I expect it is interesting enough that it makes the price equal the value.

  3. Lew Bryson March 17, 2008 at 9:15 am #

    Just did a vodka story, and one of the questions I asked was why vodka continued to sell so strongly when they’re faced with the same brand profusion that craft beers faced in the mid-90s, when everyone talked about how ‘brand confusion’ was going to overwhelm consumers. The response: new brands continued to break out (Svedka, Russian Standard, Three Olives), and…surprisingly, a couple of them admitted that all vodka essentially tastes the same, and that the biggest difference was the back-story and marketing. Wow.

  4. Swordboarder March 17, 2008 at 9:15 am #

    Alan, I believe you’re requiring the equivalent of foreplay for mind blowing sex.

  5. SteveH March 17, 2008 at 10:02 am #

    “…a couple of them admitted that all vodka essentially tastes the same, and that the biggest difference was the back-story and marketing.”


  6. Alan March 17, 2008 at 11:21 am #

    SB: I think the chances that you are female just went from 50/50 to 0.0001%.

    But, to continue the analogy, what makes someone stand out? There used to be an adage that the most attractive girl/guy at a party was the one from another country…ok, one beginning with “S” maybe. But what makes anyone attractive: an honest and interesting story with a bit of humour and decent body. Beer is no different.

  7. Swordboarder March 17, 2008 at 11:54 am #

    I never said it was a bad thing, I was just amused that you required it.

  8. Alan March 17, 2008 at 1:54 pm #

    How the heck else do I have an inkling of the value of something I have yet to try?

  9. Stan Hieronymus March 18, 2008 at 8:46 am #

    Not that I ever have much of an idea, but no way I would have predicted the comments here.

    I’ve been thinking about something a friend brought up over the weekend. He was at Cost Plus, eavesdropping on a woman “tasting” customers (don’t you love that term; sounds as if they are being licked) and she was talking about a wine from old vines.

    “Do I really want wine from old vines?” he asked me.

    Not unless you can taste the difference (and you like it). Brewpubs have given literally millions of drinkers a chance to get at least a general idea of what porters, German hefeweizens, hoppy and hoppier beers taste like.

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