Saturday, September 15, 2012

Once More The Cry...

Ontario consumers need educating!!!  Why? because "they don't seem to understand their local wine".  We definitely need this understanding so we, and I'm a consumer too, would acquire a taste for Niagara wines instead of imports. Right?

According to the article, it's 'proven' that if offered two Sauvignon Blancs we would prefer a New Zealand over a Niagara. If offered a Chilean Merlot or Cabernet we would prefer it over a 'best vintage' Niagara.  And why is this?  Because New Zealand, and by extension Chile, has very cleverly trained our senses to distinguish a 'real Savvy' from an imitation Niagara - a real Cab or Merlot from a Niagara.  That is according to Michael Pinkus' article, There Must be Some Misunderstanding.

Generally speaking, if someone wants to say I enjoy a Chilean Merlot more than a Niagara it would be true. I also prefer a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and one from the Loire depending on the circumstance. If the same person says this is because I've been brainwashed I would strongly object. 
Playing catchup
I grew up on fermented Ontario Concord and Lambrusco juices. Jordan wines were a staple at house parties and Baby Duck for special occasions. Back then Niagara wines did the 'educating'.

Moving to California we graduated to E&J Gallo jugs. My education continued when I became an Opimian member ordering from lists of world wines selected by their professional consultant and pairing of these wines at their dinners. This continued into middle age when over a decade I travelled through Napa and up the West Coast, the Okanagan and then New Zealand's North and South islands.

More recently my curiosity has encouraged a more diverse interest most of which is recorded in this blog, tastings of likely over 2000 wines. I enjoy diversity. Conversely 'same-old same-old' bores me.  Sampling of Ontario wines has increased among wines from a dozen world regions. This history has established my likes and dislikes of today and Ontario has had ample opportunity to correct its original training and, in fact, some individual wineries have become local favourites. My current perception is that more Ontario wineries have migrated to what I call 'the basics', ie. relying on the vineyard for a genuine presentation of their wines.

Admittedly my view is limited to a budget (up to $25 per btl.). Being constrained by price, I have resorted to showing comparative values as an additional rating for each of the wines I taste. Price matters when funds don't come easily. Other consumers with higher budgets could very well have a different view of Ontario wines and of course 'send me a sample' critics seldom need to be concerned with price often leaving Value out of their e---uations.

As Ontario wineries continue to play catchup consumers will eventually reward their persistence. I'd like to offer a few recommendations to speed up this transition:

  1. Get rid of the notion that programs to retrain the Ontario consumer will work. You'll likely go broke offering free samples before your customers quench their thirst.  'Build the wine and they will come' as they say.
  2. Get rid of the notion that 'cool climate' is a valid rationale for consumers to change their buying habits or taste in wines - it's what's in the bottle that's important not a climate. If 'cool climate' doesn't work for your grape, if it doesn't help you build your volumes don't use customer lack of understanding as the reason.
  3. Do a taste and price comparison of what you consider to be your competition, whether local or imported, not to imitate but to maximize strengths and eliminate weaknesses, both of which could be distinctly separate from your wines.
  4. Review where expenses are eroding margins. Don't reward premium labels if there's no return.

The LCBO has an ongoing campaign promoting local wines however the rows of shelves filled with Canadian International Blends puts their emphasis on making money perhaps at your expense.  It's time 'VQA took over the shelves' and I think (don't know) it's a pricing thing.

My opinions, Ww (a consumer)

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