Blog: Chris Brook-CarterWine Evolution - a final thought

Chris Brook-Carter | 2 February 2005

A full day back in the UK has given me time to reflect on the Wine Evolution conference I attended earlier this week.

Tradition and history are some of the most attractive aspects that go into making up the wine industry, but our tendency to dwell on the past often stops us from engaging fully with the future.

This manifests itself in a number of ways. The Old World, and I am thinking in particular here of France, is often guilty of assuming its proud past gives it a right to continue to exist untouched by the realities of the modern world. But Australia too runs the risk of falling foul of its own hype – 10 years of undoubted success alone does not guarantee another decade at the top.

From winemakers to wine journalists, we are all guilty of forgetting that the future lies not just with the trade, but, more importantly, with the consumer. As a trade we do a lot of talking amongst ourselves about the pros and cons of cork versus screw cap or grape variety versus terroir, for example, but for the vast majority of consumers this means precisely nothing.

The point was best made yesterday by Marc Engel of the research group BRS, who repeated his feat of last year by delivering something of a wake-up call to the conference delegates. His presentation centred on two focus groups he conducted in San Francisco into screw cap wines. It’s a debate that has been raging in the trade for so long now, that we take it for granted that everyone knows the ins and outs. But the lack of consumer knowledge in these focus groups was startling.

Below are just two quotes from the film we watched of the focus groups. They give a good picture of how much work needs to be done on educating consumers in the very basics of wine. These were consumers who drank wine four to five times a week and who bought wine over US$5 a bottle.

“As far as I know, there have never been any screw tops that have been good wines.”

“Screwtops are a good thing because there is hardly any cork left in Portugal.”

To us in the trade, these opinions may raise a chuckle. However, if we want to build a solid future for sales, it is time the wine industry got out there and engaged and understood its consumers in the same manner that rivals in the beer, soft drinks and spirits industries do.


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