Aspirational Music, Aspirational Wine

Are you an “aspirational” wine consumer?


What drives your selections?

Price Break to Quality?

Cult of Personality?





Follow contemporary marketing-speak at all, and you’ll hear a great deal about “aspirational.” Aspirational brands, aspirational shopping, aspirational  strategies, etc.

What’s it all about? Well, it can get a bit confusing, but the basic idea as I understand it is essentially two-fold:

a) People purchase certain products because they make them feel more successful, because it makes them feel as if they’re the kind of person who could afford that kind or product. In fact, often, people buy said products BECAUSE they can’t afford them; meaning, they want to feel as if they CAN afford them.


b) People purchase certain products because they think they should, because they think they are necessary to make them a better, more successful person.

An example of the former might be someone who buys a Lexus as a sort of status symbol. There are of course cars out there that get better mileage, have better maintenance histories, provide better customer service, offer better price-break-to-quality, etc. But they aren’t Lexae. Owning a Lexus says something about you. And if you don’t have one, you want one, because you then become a “Lexus owner.” And that means something.

An example of B might be someone who only buys Free Trade coffee beans. They might not really even know what Free Trade means, and they might have no knowledge of the growing methods, the sustainability standards, or anything else about the product, but the seeming idea of Free Trade appeals to their moral sensibility, and so they buy Free Trade because they feel better about themselves, and what they’ve done.

Interesting? For me, not so much.

But, where I DO think this gets interesting is when you start to think about creative/aesthetic/artistic soul-and-spirit decisions.

For example, music. In the age of the iPod, people can almost instantly assemble vast music libraries, and they usually do. And what are those libraries usually made up of? Probably a combination of things: guilty pleasures, impulse buys, old standbys, experiments, etc.

But let’s be honest, a great deal of what’s in those libraries is actually there to impress.

Ever look through someone else’s iPhone before? It can be kind of creepy.

For me, it’s not their Facebook page that weirds me out, or their Photo Roll, or their Notes, or even their Apps (tho sometimes, the Games kind of freak me out). No, what weirds me out is the music.


Because it so rarely seems GENUINE! Because it’s usually so obvious that people have put things in their libraries specifically to make themselves seem like a certain kind of person. You, The Pixies? Really? And you? Shostakovitch? Yeah, right. Lorde? LORDE? You’re 44 years old, for god’s sakes, you don’t listen to Lorde.

Sometimes, we do it to ourselves in the same way we diet. We have to control our choices, our impulses, we need discipline! So, we deliberately put celery in our lunchboxes, and take out the cookies, so that when we get to work, we won’t have the temptation. In the same way, we load our iPhones with CLASSICAL! So that, no matter how bad we want to, we can’t listen to The Who on the drive home. Or Taylor Swift. Or We Built This City. Or Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da. Or Kid Rock.

We can only listen to CLASSICAL, because THAT will make us better people!

Which brings us to wine.

People can be very weird about wine.

More often than not, it’s one or the other extreme. People either get defensive about their wines, and deliberately buy cheap things, so they can very chip-on-the-shoulderly say things like “Hey, I like what I like, and I don’t care whether Robert Parker thinks he smells raspberries and English riding boots or not!” Or, they get very “aspirational,” and only buy things they think they’re SUPPOSED to have. Like Pinot Noir. Or lastly, as with the example of the Classical Music above, they buy what they think will make them better, more sophisticated, classier. Like Pinot Noir.

So what does aspirational look like in the world of wine? And more importantly, how do we do away with it?

Because if there is one thing we don’t want, is people buying certain wines because they think they’re SUPPOSED to!

It’s no more cool to put Led Zeppelin on your iPod — ironically or otherwise — than it is to buy Bordeaux, if you don’t actually like it, have an interest in it, or want to learn about it.

What IS cool, is self-awareness, humility, and curiosity.

And this is where, and why, wine gets special. Because wine truly rewards the self-aware, the humble, and the curious.

If you ASPIRE to self-awareness, humility, and curiosity, then come to wine.

Because if it was good enough for Li-Po, it’s good enough for us!


For Meng Hao-Jan

I love Master Meng.

Free as a flowing breeze,

He is famous

Throughout the world.

In rosy youth, he cast away

Official cap and carriage.

Now, a white-haired elder, he reclines

Amid pines and cloud.

Drunk beneath the moon,

He often attains sagehood.

Lost among the flowers,

He serves no lord.

How can I aspire

to such a high mountain?

Here below, to his clear fragrance,

I bow.


Poem by Li-Po, translated by Greg Whincup


How can YOU aspire to such a high mountain? Just like this!


Above the fog, Monte Bello

Aspire to good wine.

Categories: Business of Wine, Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine & Art, Wine & Music, Wine & Philosophy, Wine & Poetry, Wine & Spirituality, Wine Tales

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