The final hour of Middlesex v Hertfordshire at Lords,
April 19, 2013

Every so often, in exchanges with people on Facebook and elsewhere, I get comments like “I know about what wine drinkers think. I frequently host tastings for groups of them…”. I thought of the people who attend those tastings on the final day of the International Wine Challenge at Lords, as I walked past the stands on my way to enjoy a post-competition beer.

As many of the hundred or so other wine professionals who’d spent their day sniffing, sipping and spitting began to make their way home, a hundred yards away, a group of men in white were doing what one is supposed to do at Lords: playing cricket.

The match in question was between Middlesex and Hertfordshire. It was a Friday afternoon, so most people of employable age were probably at work, but one might reasonably have imagined that rather more fans of both teams might have made their way to north London than are visible in the stands in the photograph above.

If you look carefully, you’ll see the players on the pitch, taking the game very seriously: the equivalent of wine industry professionals. Watching, there are the small numbers of devoted fans: the equivalent of the enthusiasts who read wine books and columns and attend tastings…

Asking people who attend wine tastings what they think of wine is like asking people in the stands of a cricket match what they think of cricket: interesting, certainly, but hardly likely to be representative of the public at large…

  1. Dan Jago @danjago wrote
    “@robertjoseph: The relevance of an empty cricket ground to the way we talk about wine……” Yet more sense from BJ.

  2. Surely the last opinion one wants of anything nowadays is that of “the public at large” – there is quite enough of that in reader's comments.

    No, the opinion one wants from the people who attend wine tastings is rather the equivalent of the opinion one gets on the cricket from an attendee such as Henry Blofeld.

  3. I am not saying that one shouldn't listen to people who attend tastings – or who read wine- focused blogs. What I'm saying is that their views are unrepresentative of the majority of wine drinkers. This suits most of the industry perfectly, given its lack of interest in what most non wine enthusiasts think, but it's commercially illiterate.
    A good illustration is offered by Portuguese wines which get great responses from media, sommeliers and enthusiasts but struggle to make sales. Listening to a wider public might help Portuguese producers adapt their packaging and marketing appropriately.

  4. The other point I'd make is that the one thing the wine world is not short of is expert comment. The Internet is full of Blofeld-type commentary, for anyone who wants it.

  5. An excellent analogy pursue it further. Why are the French abandoning wine as the are abandoning Aussies cricket. The Cricket Ovals are being turned into football stadiums as wine becomes more processed. The game is 20/20 hit and giggle like the flavoured wines of the RTD's segment. The players are all in it for the money they get paid millions but no longer entertain. They behave like spoiled children and sre media driven. Wine and Cricket are hedonic pursuits but they are also heuristic and are serious wine and cricket becoming the realm of the purists. Cricket has become a pajama circus – there is hope for wine yet?

  6. Robert, It all about the punters. The do not the attend the cricket irrespective of the cricket writers. Its the same with wine they do not inspire or do they have relevance. Cricket has descended into a mass media spectacle as 20/20 – 80 % of wine is sold through supermarkets. It is immediate gratification – the patience has gone – who wants to sit through 5 days of a test match.
    Cricket has like wine aging icons – most recent Ponting. Winemakers like crickets are losing the ” artisan” skills, its now Hit or Miss and ” Show me the Money” that a 95+ from Parker can deliver. Wine is losing consumers- they are not trading up- I hoped they would and was recently belted by other academics for that aspirational cause – is did not happen. Wine like cricket will become a 20/20 pajama game of prima donnas who have 15 minutes of fame and disappear many retiring rich but leave little legacy in either innovation or achievement. I don't watch cricket anymore – but I am still drinking wine – for the moment.
    In Australis they now have have ” drop in terroir ( pitches ) as the grounds duplicate as Football stadiums – and drop in terroir is alive and kicking in wine too- mostly as the original terroir have like Australian cricket grounds lost the distinctiveness factors for the sake of Parker and other rating ” points”.

  7. An interesting take. I know of the emerging wine consumers I talk with (mainly via interactions with my daughter's friends) often question the relevance of middle age men's opinions on what wine they should drink. I guess the issue is indentifying the market segment your wines are made for, maybe even making wines for those segments rather than one style fits all.

  8. You make a great point. Got some great info here. I think that if more people thought about it that way, they'd have a better time get the hang ofing the issue.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.