Consistency, Wine, & The Market

Consider “market pressure” in the wine industry, particularly as it relates to the fiscal realities of producing wine.

A producer of wine lives in many, many time zones concurrently. At any given time, one lives within the following:

–Land laying fallow, awaiting new planting.

–New vines growing, still yet to produce “useable” fruit.

–The “active” vineyards.

–The fruit growing on the vines, soon to be harvested.

–The juice in barrel, yet to be bottled.

–The juice in bottle, yet to be released.

–The “current” releases.

–Wine in the “library” awaiting future release.

Each of these “categories” requires a great deal of maintenance, management, and oversight. In short, tender loving care.

And money. Lots, and lots of money.

Yet out of those 8 “time zones,” only one generates revenue; the “current” releases.

Thus, market pressure. The need to sell wine, in order to subsidize those other 7 time zones.

Being under this pressure, the temptation to make that which is “guaranteed” to sell, and sell fast, is nigh overwhelming.

This is arguably where the point system comes in; despite what some may wish, reviews (especially those in the point-format) remain probably the single-most-influential factor as regards the sale of wine. So for a producer under the weight of tremendous pressure as outlined above, the temptation to make wines that will ideally receive high point scores becomes nigh overwhelming.

Consistency is the other beast to wrestle with. Market pressure tends to demand consistency. I spent X amount of money on this wine last year, and I’m going to spend the same amount again this year, and I expect the same results.

But Mother Nature is not consistent. So if you’re wine is, something is afoot.

But does the market care? Despite what some may wish, “natural” wine (i.e. that which, among other things, expresses natural vintage variation) may not be in step with market pressure. So, the pressure becomes not only to make that which will sell, and sell fast, and not only to make that which will receive high point scores, it becomes to make that which will consistently receive high point scores, regardless of Mother Nature.

This is where ART comes in.

Consider this. You buy a pair of shoes; Brand X, Model X, Size X, Price X. You love these shoes. They fit your feet perfectly. They’re well made. They look good. Seen through the price-break-to-quality prism, they’re a fantastic deal. You are very happy. You wear them constantly. Then eventually, despite being very well made, they wear out. Being a believer, you buy a new pair; same brand, same model, same size, same price. But they don’t fit right. And they’re not as well made. They don’t look as good. You’re disappointed to the point of fury. The lack of consistency is fatal. The relationship is over.

Now consider this. You discover a painting by Artist X. You love the work. You are moved. It speaks to you. You feel elevated in the presence of this work. There is ostensibly no practical value to having this work in your life, but your soul benefits, and this has practical ramifications. You are happier. You feel better. You are spiritually closer to that which enervates all life. The painting is a big investment, but it is worth it. It is so much more than worth it. You are happy. Some time later, you move into a larger home. You have a bare wall you did not have before. You know just what to do with it. You find Artist X, and you commission a painting. You are excited beyond measure. If a painting that was not created for you could move you to that degree, imagine what a piece that is painted just for you will do! You cannot wait. Finally, the work arrives. You open it. You are aghast. It is essentially the same painting you already own. You’re disappointed to the point of fury. The consistency is fatal. The relationship is over.

This is what the producer of wine must consider, and this is what the consumer of wine must consider.

What do you want to produce?

What do you want to consume?

I do not buy everything for its artistry. Toilet paper? I want consistency. #2 Pencils? Consistency.

But music? I want life, magic, juju, soul!

Literature? Passion, imagination, brilliance!

And for my spirit?

Do I want my preacher to repeat last week’s sermon? My roshi to repeat last week’s dharma talk? My rabbi to repeat last week’s service?


So now ask yourself, you who produces wine; are you a maker of toilet paper?

And ask yourself, you who consumes wine; are you a drinker of #2 pencils?

Market pressure affects the consumer too, no question about it.

I, for one, would love always to shop with my conscience. But I cannot always afford to. Sometimes you just have to go to the big-box store and buy the conventional brand.

But not always.

So I am moved by Ridge Vineyards. I am moved that we make the kinds of wines we do. And I am moved by everyone who consumes our wines.

It’s not always easy to make the kinds of wines we do. And it’s not always easy to purchase them.

But I think it’s important.

And so I am moved by every producer of wine who finds a way to dodge a little bit of that market pressure; who finds a way to slip a little love into the wine; who manages to create from the air that which will survive on the ground.

And I am moved by every drinker of wine who purchases that which feels just a little more magic; who looks a little harder, reads a little further, tastes a little deeper.

We all need a little art in our lives.

And we all need a little of Mother Nature’s wild touch.

Categories: Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine & Health, Wine & Music, Wine & Philosophy, Wine & Poetry, Wine and Jazz, Wine Tales

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