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Why is wine still so snobby?
The other day I went to an Asda wine tasting. It was held not as you might imagine in a well-lit modern tasting room but in the chandeliered splendour of Dartmouth House in Mayfair. Some of their wines were displayed in wooden Pomerol cases.
They were certainly unlikely to persuade the journalists present that they had suddenly morphed into an old style wine merchant but even the most traditional wine merchants have a more contemporary image these days. So is it their customers they want to impress - and why?
They’re not the only ones. Morrisons has just launched a new website called The Morrisons Cellar while Lidl is advertising its Wine Cellar under the strapline ‘fine wines exclusively at Lidl”. Leaving aside for the moment whether Sancerre actually constitutes a ‘fine wine’ - unless you define fine wine as French what on earth are these cost-cutting retailers talking about cellars for? How many of their customer has a cellar for heaven’s sake? I don’t.
I find it quite sad that you have to talk about fine wine and cellars to encourage people to engage with wine. That’s certainly the reverse of what is happening with beer at the moment and craft beer is booming. I was watching the TV documentary Chateau Chunder the other day about the rise of Australian wine in the '90s. Why did it do so well? Because it offered an unstuffy alternative to the staid world of unpronounceable names and condescending wine service. Have we moved on from then? Doesn’t seem like it at times.
As usual I suspect it comes down to money. Average spend is still low in the supermarkets and lower still in the likes of Asda, Morrisons and Lidl. If they could persuade their customers that the only way to impress their friends is by trading up and taking about cellars then they’d be on to a winner.
(Incidentally Morrisons is charging a fair bit more for its new ‘cellar’ range than you’d pay elsewhere online*. Even allowing for the fact they don’t appear to pay UK tax Vinissimus is charging way less for the Honoro Vera Garnacha 2011 (£4.28) than Morrisons' £14.99 while you can buy the Abanico Boca do Monte for which Morrisons is charging £10.99 for £8.77 in thedrinkshop.com)
In his recent excellent address to the European Wine Bloggers conference Andrew Jefford said 'when you consider that 95% of wine drinkers take it for granted that wine is inseparable from hilarity, I suspect that almost all of us take it too seriously, too earnestly, too reverently".
I couldn’t agree more. It’s time supermarkets projected a different image of wine, encouraging their customers to feel more at ease with wine instead of pandering to our insecurities and prejudices.
What do you think? Is wine marketing still stuck in the dark ages and what do you think supermarkets should do to change it?
*although it does, at the time of writing, have a 25% off a case deal. That doesn't mean the wines aren't generally overpriced.
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