Monday, September 8, 2008

James Laube's Market Theory

I read a bizarre blog posted on 3rd September by the Wine Spectator’s California wine critic, James Laube. In it he makes the point that it is the consumers’ buying power that decides which style of wine dominates. He seems to be vague in elaborating which wine style happens to be popular right now, but then slips in his narrative something about “riper, fuller-bodied wines became en vogue in the 1990s”. And, if I may add, is still going strong. Thanks to him and his magazine for doling out big points to wines of this style.

So what I do find bizarre in the blog post is not the revelation that the popularity of a wine style may be consumer-driven, but that there was no accounting at all of the influential role he and his magazine play in the market. Like Pilate, it almost seems like he was washing his hands off the popularity of wines that are “superripe” or “overripe” or however this style of wine is referred to in the blog, explaining that this is completely the work of consumers. That consumers vote with their dollars, and that “as long as winemakers are selling out their wines and people are endorsing those styles with their dollars, there isn’t any incentive to change.”

Geez, I’ve been fooled all along then. I suppose if Laube scores Kosta Browne 80 points the Pinot would still sell out at ever-rising prices. And come time the Wine Spectator announces its Top 100 Wines of the Year it would just be plain coincidence that our phones would be ringing off the hook with consumers asking us about buying cases of wines in the list that they’ve never even tasted.

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