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Batman, Robin & The Rub

Houston, we have a problem – a problem that is not soon going to rectify itself and a problem that essentially boils down to a chasm in between foodies and wine enthusiasts and how to bridge that gap.

If Foodies are Batman, wine is Robin.  If foodies are Han Solo, wine is Chewbacca.  If foodies are Fred Flintstone, wine is Barney Rubble.  If foodies are … you get the point …

And, the crux of the biscuit is that wine will never have its rightful place at the table unless a sizeable shift in collective thought leadership is undertaken by the wine industry and some sort of NAFTA-like integration can occur between the world of food and the world of wine.

The answer is not cheap, it is not easy, and it does not involve food, either.  The solution lay with the wine industry. 

The wine world thinks it is a measure of equals with food, Bert & Ernie, but in our heart of hearts, if we are honest with ourselves, we know that wine plays second fiddle in the minds and collective heart of the food world.

Over at Wines & Vines, I read a couple of quotes from Courtney Cochran, a speaker at Unified Symposium, and on noting opportunities in the wine business, the article said:

Cochran believes that the wine industry has missed out on one very important trend. According to a Nielsen survey, one in five households reports having a gourmet chef. The “foodie” phenomenon has reached a fever pitch, and yet, “In the foodie culture, wine is still a sideline,” she said.

So while the Food Network has sent several unknown chefs into the far-reaches of stardom (the number of “foodie” shows has tripled since 2000, Cochran said), few people in the wine industry have achieved such status. Meanwhile, neglecting the foodie cultural phenomenon is an expensive mistake …

In the same Wines & Vines article, Unified speaker Paul Lukacs noted:

Making the connection between wine and food doesn’t have to mean beating down the doors of the highest-end restaurants, Lukacs reaffirmed. It means getting into America’s kitchens.

“Emeril is not the big star,” he said. “Rachel Ray is the big star. And what does she do? She tells you how to make food at home.”

Lukacs continues:

“Bring wine to the home. Bring wine to the supper table.…For a long time we have presented wine as something special, as something fancy, not as something (consumers) should have every day,” Lukacs said.  “We’ve already succeeded at getting wine on the table at the Four Seasons in New York—that was 30 years ago. The challenge is getting wine on the table of the busboy at the Four Seasons, and we’re not there yet.

“For the first time, I think, in history, we are poised to really make wine a foundational part of the American lifestyle.”

But, are we really poised to make wine a foundational part of American lifestyle?  Think about it for a second – there is exactly one mainstream magazine that integrates food & wine – a lifestyle magazine of the same name.  Meanwhile, there are dozens of food related magazines.

In realm of blogging, foodie blogs outnumber wine blogs by three or four times and in exceedingly rare circumstance (a half-dozen or less) do blogs blend both food and wine coverage.

Ironically enough, John Gillespie, who was noted in the same Wines & Vines article for his Wine Market Council research on Millenials, actually may hold the answer for this, even if earlier attempts have failed.

In an increasingly fragmented media society where influence is measured incrementally, it is very difficult to advocate for a mass-market influence tactic, but that is exactly what is needed.

A little over five years ago, John Gillespie from the Wine Market Council attempted to rally support for an industry-wide advertising campaign to do exactly what Cochran and Lukacs noted in their presentations – create awareness aimed at making wine a more widely accepted and enjoyed part of American culture.

Ultimately, that attempt to combine print advertising, public relations and traditional marketing tactics failed to launch.

However, that is precisely what is needed today.  You cannot influence close to 300 million Americans out of the mouths of enthusiasts, or Millenials.

Wine needs a mass market advertising campaign and a mass-market public relations campaign to bring it to the table.  Wine needs to act like a food board that advocates – “Got Milk,” “The Incredible, Edible Egg,” beef, avocados, almonds, Wisconsin cheese and on down the line.  We all know these advertising campaigns.  These all influence us in subtle ways.

Wine needs to do the same thing.

Ultimately, wine needs to muscle its way to the table, next to food. Unfortunately, Batman is not going to rescue Robin and therein lies the rub – what the wine world talks about being necessary is in the wine worlds hands and there are no foodies, or a Dark Knight coming to the rescue.

Additional reading:

Tom at Fermentation on wine on television

Arthur at Wine Sooth on the romanticized vision of European wine culture



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Posted in, Free Run: Field Notes From a Wine Life. Permalink | Comments (1) |


Comments

On 02/12, Jim Eastman wrote:

I just had a vision for a mass-market wine ad. A montage of people sitting in doctor’s offices with the doctor advising them to drink a glass of wine daily, followed by a quick tag line (don’t know what yet) about the health benefits of wine at the end of the commercial.


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