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  • Paul Wagner

Words to Live by

I don't generally post on this blog, but this conversation on Linked-In was interesting. Here's what I had to say about it:


Here's a basic rule for communication: What is communicated is not what is said--it's what is heard. When the wine business rattles off an endless list of trivia about how the wine is made, what the customer hears is what Charlie Brown hears when the adults talk in his television specials: wah wah, wah wah, wah wah. That's not communication; it's ritual. There's a reason the Catholic mass in no longer celebrated in Latin--nobody knew what the heck was being said. Wine consumers care far more about the personality and character of the winemaker than they do about the brix at harvest, or the percentrage of Troncais vs. Alliers oak. As Jose Penin, the leading wine writer in Spain once said: "I learn a lot more about winemaker from meeting his or her dog than I do seeing tanks or barrels."

That's not superficial. It's telling the customers what they want to know. They want to know: Will I like this wine? They don't want to know that the pH is under 3.6. They don't want to know if it was co-fermented, they want to know if the winemaker is a real person, who likes the same things that they do, and shares their same vision of life and happiness.

I love to use music as a contrast to wine. No music was ever sold based on syncopation or harmonic suspension. It's sold by people who love it and talk about it in ways that other people can appreciate. Is some of that completely facile? Of course. But for most people music, like wine, is a simple pleasure. And they don't want to be told that they need to go back to school in order to enjoy it. Influencers play an important role in both, whether they are "artificial" or simply sharing their emotions without supporting (or even knowing) technical information. Are these influencers corruptible? Possibly. So is traditional media, in overt or covert ways.

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