Apr 10, 2007

Wine That Loves to Pigeonhole Consumers

On the heels of the critter craze comes an even more absurd trend: wine that focuses on the food it pairs best with, as opposed to the varietal of the grape or region it comes from. Wine That Loves is a line by The Amazing Food Wine Company, who claims that they "design wines using the right pairing rules..."

And whose rules would those be? I thought we'd gotten past the notion that there are hard and fast rules for pairing wines with food. I thought we'd discovered that people have individual tastes and preferences, as well as incredibly subjective reactions to different foods, wines and combinations thereof. But apparently the Amazing Food Wine Company knows what you'd like, knows how your tastebuds work, and knows just exactly what to serve with the food you've prepared. Oh boy...

The problem with this approach is twofold:
  1. Everyone's tastebuds are different. This means that you might hate astringent tannins in your wine, but I might love them. So when they claim that "Pizza crust can create a dry mouth feel, so the right wine needs to be low in tannin. A medium-tannin wine will worsen the dryness and a high-tannin one will produce an unpleasant astringent taste," they are assuming I don't want a tannic experience. Oops, wrong assumption, kids.

  2. They have no idea how I like to cook. If my pizza has caramelized onions on it, or no tomato sauce, that's going to dramatically affect how the wine interacts with the dish. The real rule of wine pairing, which Wine That Loves completely ignores, is that there is no one-size fits-all approach. To offer one does a disservice to the dish, the wine, and the diner.
Cultural analyst Malcolm Gladwell loves to talk about a man named Howard Moskowitz. Moskowitz is responsible for the discovery that consumer preferences come in all shapes and sizes. He gave us tomato sauce that comes in...get this...multiple varieties. In the early '80s, "Cooking, on the industrial level, was consumed with the search for human universals." This was wrong, and caused a flatline in sales for various food products. Luckily for consumers and marketers alike, "Once you start looking for the sources of human variability...the old orthodoxy goes out the window." And you end up with choices that suit your own particular flavor preferences. Wine That Loves has eschewed all of this lovely research and reminded us once again that there is really only one ideal choice for any given food-wine combo, and they've got it. Sorry, but I just don't buy that.

It's also interesting to note that the Wine That Loves line currently includes five offerings—Wine That Loves Roasted Chicken, Pasta with Tomato Sauce, Pizza, Grilled Steak, and Salmon (their only white). Three of these currently have descriptions on their website, and they are all the same: medium intensity, low-medium acidity and low tannin level red wines. So not only is there only one choice for any given combo, but it happens to be the same for every combo. How on earth did this idea get off the ground?

Now, I will admit: I have yet to try any of these wines. They may be very good wines. But I won't know what I'm buying, because they won't tell me what's in them! Talk about dumbing down your product and underestimating your customer. Just because the under-$15 segment is on the rise doesn't mean that those purchasing value wines do so because they don't know any better. And if you are going to spoon feed us our wine, so to speak, at least do it based on sound reasoning.

1 comment:

Anthony said...

I think that the labels should be more focused on telling you what's in the wine that what to eat with it or just some random critter.

My father makes homemade wine and it tastes nothing like those $15 bottles that are popular now. It makes you wonder what they're actually puttnig in there.

If you're interested, here's his recipe for Dandelion Wine.