Ed Thralls has an interesting post up on the Wine Tonite blog about wine education in the US, and how it compares to our cousins across the pond in the UK. I can't say that I was terribly surprised by the results of the analysis presented by Wine Intelligence at the London International Wine Fair. It seems that American wine consumers have undergone some conditioning over the years that has retarded their education.
Ed asks the following question -
…it certainly seems that those in the US are less “aware” of most popular wine-producing regions than those in the UK, with the exception of Napa. Is this simply due to geographical proximity, marketing, import regulations, something else or all of the above?
I think that there is some truth to each of the things that he mentions. It is certainly not a surprise that American wine consumers aren't familiar with European wine regions, when a good portion of Americans are not even very familiar with European geography. Wines have also largely been marketed in this country by varietal rather than region, with the possible exception of the focus on Napa wines, and maybe even a little bit of an Australian push by labels like Yellowtail.
One additional factor that I think could be considered, is the laziness of American consumers. Most of our purchasing decisions seem to be made on the basis of a pretty label or advertising. It takes some effort to familiarize yourself with different wine regions, and to decipher the labeling for those different regions. Most of us can remember a time when we were interested in buying our first French wine, and were perplexed by the lack of varietal name, and flummoxed by the terminology on the label. The first time I went to the wine shop to look for a French wine, I ended up walking away empty handed because I couldn't even tell what I was looking at. It required effort, which is something that average American consumers are not willing to invest in their wine purchases.
I do think that we need more wine education in this country, but we also need ways to get people interested in spending the time and effort required to learn about wine. So, in addition to the question about why Americans are so far behind Europeans in wine knowledge, I also want to ask what can be done to increase interest in wine in this country? What needs to be done to make people want to learn about wine?
BTW – I recognize that my post title has little bearing on the topic of the post, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to insert a little Pink Floyd into a post on education.