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Wine Brats
by Joel Quigley
Magazine Issue: Vol. 2.2
W I N E . B R A T S
apples to grapes
N E X T P A G E >
<

The Price of Cloistered, Self-righteous Arrogance or . . .
Comparing Apples to Grapes
in the Land of Mass Consumerism

Ten years ago, Beta's quality clearly kicked butt over the VHS video format. For today's hard-core audiophile, vinyl remains superior to the laser-read compact disc. And when it comes to computers, designers and artists remain insistent that Apple Macintosh computers rule over their PC counterparts.

Truth is, in this land of mass consumerism, a good story combined with an aggressive marketing campaign (not to mention backroom monopolistic deals cut between multinational conglomerates) can render a competitor's superior product irrelevant. This is why on Friday nights across America, people are picking up the latest blockbuster movie on VHS, checking their email on PCs, then plopping down on the couch with a brewski and listening to music on their multi-disc CD players. Convenience and market share rule in America.

In the case of Apple, its precarious situation can be traced to an almost cloistered, self-righteous arrogance. The company's outright rejection of following the industry standard of cloning, of pricing itself outside the reasonable range of the competition and controlling distribution to a point beyond anal-retentiveness, has left Apple hemorrhaging financially. Apple's image as an innovator is now history, textbook fodder. I find this particularly disturbing when considering the unsettling similarities in attitude between Apple and the wine industry. And that similarity is, "Let's just sit back and wait for them to come to us."

You know, this inbred mantra would be humorous if it weren't driving so many marketing decisions within wineries. I know of no other successful billion-dollar industry that takes this approach. Not only is this thinking asinine, it's dangerous to the longevity of this so-called "Golden Age" that the wine industry is currently experiencing. Remember, Macintosh used to be a player, a contender. But look what happened when hubris replaced chutzpah. Nothing is guaranteed.

So, let's review three simple ideas to consider when reaching out to the hard-working public: 1) make your product fun, 2) make it easy to get and 3) make it affordable. This is where wine needs to go. Then, as a bonus, we can throw in all the intrigue of quality and history that does make wine one of the greatest beverages on the planet. If we do this, this "Golden Age" may sustain itself well into the next century.

On the other hand, if the industry continues to position itself as an elite product with limited mass appeal, then, like Mac, be prepared to pay the price, because this strategy has no legs! A downturn in the economy and luxury items are shoved to the back of the shelf. And for the sake of self-respect, realize that no other adult beverage industry in this country is sitting on its rump, stroking its ego, believing its product is so great that people will turn to it through fate and/or enlightenment. Every move that distillers and brewers make in the marketplace is a proactive strategy to give consumers an opportunity to experience their products. This is how you find new friends.

Remember this too: there's a sea, no, an ocean, of fresh juice on its way, coming via imports and massive new plantings. But here's the good news: there's a whole new generation of adults ready to drink wine now. Their palates are tuned up and waiting for the wine industry to reach out and put glasses in their hands. So drop the attitude, drop the price, make it accessible and, most importantly, make it relevant to their view of the world and how they interact with it and their peers. Let's not find ourselves looking back in 10 years and reminiscing about the good ol' days when wine almost became an important part of the American social diet and fabric.

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