I had an epiphany the other day and then this sort of weird metaphor started taking root in my mind. It had to do with the similarities between shopping for wine and shopping for cars. But, it was more than that. It started to occur to me that interest in wine or cars can go from casual to super nerdy, and somewhere in between.
For instance, how many people buy a car simply because they like the looks? I’m willing to bet a years pay that this is the case at least most of the time. Why else would automobile makers spend so much time on marketing, and research on what will catch the consumers eye. Although packaging isn’t everything, it has a lot to do with the success of brand. The car may not do well on the road, may get terrible gas mileage, is totally uncomfortable to drive, but hey! It looks so cool.
Buying a car can be a serious investment for some folks, so they put a little more into the purchase than just being impressed by the design and look of the automobile. This group will look at consumer reports to see how the car fairs with other people, will look at fuel efficiency, durability, compartment comfort, trunk space and safety standards. They want to spend their money wisely, and looks don’t have a lot to do with their final decision (although it might come into play from time to time).
Then, there is the super nerdy car buyer. This person understands the reputation of the automobile maker. They know all about what is under the hood of a car and will research any new data that comes available. They are more concerned with the type of engine or transmission, and looks mean nothing to them. To this group, it is about quality…Nothing more. It doesn’t have to be an expensive car to be a good car, and they are aware that the more research they do, the better automobile they can get for the money.
Not to be over-looked, are the car buyers who are concerned about nothing but prestige. This person only buys a car with a reputation for being top of the line. It has to be a Cadillac, Porsche, BMW, Lexus or?…You get the picture. They want to drive down the road and have folks think…”Wow, that person is rich or has class!” I’m not saying that the car they are driving is not well-made. A lot of those cars are some of the best as far as engineering and safety. However, that is not what concerns this type of person. No, it is all about what other people think about them as they drive down the road. “Look at me, look at what I drive. I hope you are melting with envy!” I think by now you are getting some idea about where I am going with this.
Many wineries spend a lot of money on label design, hoping to catch the consumers eye and lure them towards a purchase. For the wine buyer with a casual interest in the product inside the bottle, label shopping is a big thing for them. Many times as I am working the wine aisle, I will hear someone declare that they are going to buy a wine because it has a dog on the label and they absolutely adore dogs. There is little interest in whether or not the wine inside is any good, they just want to buy it because of the label. Fortunately for them, they are in my department where a wine with a cute label is not placed on the shelf unless the wine inside is good. However, that is not true in a lot of wine departments, where many a bottle is sold despite the fact that the wine inside is poor quality. When it comes to wine and automobiles, packaging is a big part of the picture.
Buying wine can be a serious investment for a lot of people. They love wine, but they have trouble parting with money that could be spent better elsewhere (like food or rent). They put a little more into their wine purchase, because they do not want to be disappointed when they open the bottle. They do some research, perhaps reading wine periodicals to see what their report is on certain wines. They may seek the advice of their local wine guru or their wine drinking friends to get feedback. They will not buy a wine unless they are sure they are getting the best bang-for-the-buck.
Then there is the wine nerd. This person knows about producers, their reputation, their consistency in putting out good wines. They know what’s under the hood so to speak. They know about vintages, and whether or not the grapes are bio-dynamically or organically grown. This person is not concerned with labels or price, it’s all about the wine itself and how it is built. They more than likely will seek out wines that express terroir and are not manipulated in such a way that the personality is taken from the juice. They don’t care what Robert Parker Jr. or James Suckling or The Wine Spectator say about the wine, because they are comfortable with their palate and choices. However, they do know each critics palate so that they can assess the value of the scores, stars, glasses or grades given each wine. The wine nerd is simply absorbed in the wine world.
Last but not least is the prestige wine buyer. This is the person that walks into a wine department and immediately seeks out the big name labels such as Silver Oak, Caymus, Jordan, Cakebread or Dom Perignon. They are not looking for the best wine for the money. No, they want to impress their friends with a well-known label…It makes them look good and wine savvy. Believe me when I tell you that the aforementioned wines are very good, but not always the best you can get for the dollar. But, like the guy who drives a Porsche to show-off, some buy certain wines simply to show-off. I am not saying that everyone who buys these wines is intending to impress others. However, there is a group that falls into the show-off category.
Buying cars and buying wine…Who would have put the two together. My mind works in twisted ways sometimes, but I do see a connection and I hope I was able in some way to clarify my thoughts. Wine and automobiles…Do YOU see the similarities?
Stan The Wine Man