Is Education The Best Tool?
Newsletter #5 is here.
Is education really the best tool we have to engage wine drinkers?
So it's 11pm, and I'm just sitting down to write this, after spending a few hours chatting about wine to paying customers*, having checked into twitter, found something interesting and said I'd write about it.
Sometimes, I find telling people I'm going to do something is the best way to make sure I'm going to do it.
Kind of how I got into this whole Master of Wine situation when you think about it.
The Five R's.
1. Read about wine
2. Write about wine.
Look, my angle here isn't about how Terroir is an abstract concept, that article is a well trodden path, not one I care to step foot in. It is however, yet another mechanism used to talk about wine, and not just for the nerds, it's on the back of more bottles that you'd realise.
My gripe is a 'bigger picture' conversation around the over-use of lazy wine education, it seems to be all that's all we've got to engage consumers. The cultivated ecosystem of Terroir is one of the many default conversations that are easily recycled.
Did you catch the Instagram Live?
with @Perfect_Cellar on Monday night**
One of my main points in the 55 min chat about wine education, was how the wine industry has spent a lot of time learning all the jargon, the intricacies of pruning techniques and canopy management, soil types and sunlight, and somehow along the way we've forgotten that everybody else hasn't learnt as much as we have.
We spend far too much time telling customers all things we've learnt, rather than using that knowledge to talk to them with words they already understand.
The wine world at large has spent a vast proportion of it's marketing activity trying to teach people how to drive, when we should be showing them where to go.
Take these two images, infographics I guess. Firstly, via Jane Anson, it's possibly the most complicated infographic I've ever seen, I mean look at it, I can't make top nor tail of it. There are some people out there that will love it, of course.
Put together by Dr Van Leeuwen at the University of Bordeaux, it's not really intended as a consumer facing marketing gambit like the next one from The Wine Folly, who have a consistently remarkable output of creative and engaging, consumer focussed wine education.
People who are genuinely interested in wine are an elusive bunch.
For the most part, the second graphic conveys the same message more simply and indeed more effectively.
While each has a clear audience, neither demographic is an average wine drinker, in fact, both audiences may be just a niche as each other. While the first should be confined exclusively to text books and lecture rooms, who's actually looking for the second?
Is there a better way?
I think a change of approach is required.
At the wine tastings I host, I often spend the last part of the evening doing some quickfire myth-busting. Those myths are generally rehashed, yet well intentioned Chinese Whispers by the old-guard wine tasting circuit. Obvious topics like 'legs', and 'teaspoons', and 'ice cubes', should be left behind with all of those bogus food-pairing rules.
Wine could do well with taking a look at the beer industry, it's engaging marketing and simpler expression of 'Craft' has penetrated well beyond a webinar on Terroir.
Beer has created an excitement to explore, reflected in supermarket shelves clamouring for the next interesting style, knowing that shoppers are keen to take a punt. While on a parallel aisle shelves groan with a sea of Sauvignon or Chardonnay with a predictability built on trepidation.
Giving customers the facts can be enough, but the way in which that message is presented needs to change.
Inspire, engage and set free.
Our jobs as knowledgeable advocates should be to inspire, engage and set free, to stop perpetuating myths as half truths, and to move away from the edict that education = enjoyment.
It's well gone midnight now, speak soon.
* Yes, people pay to have me come and talk to them about wine. I know.
** Watch the full 55 mins or the 3 minute clip of me.
The WSET nailing the obvious myths hit list.
Six common wine myths debunked
The Wine Folly, unfortunately spouting some absolute nonsense here. You win some you loose some.
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