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james laube's wine flights

A Matter of Style?

As much as wine pros like to debate alcohol and ripeness, consumers' main concerns are consistency, availability and affordability
Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: May 9, 2013 11:40am ET

Within wine industry circles, there's often debate about style. Winemakers talk about scaling up or down in ripeness or alcohol. Restaurateurs and sommeliers consider which wines are better-suited for their eatery, or different cuisines, or occasions.

I never hear much of anything from consumers about wanting different styles. In fact, when I'm on the road, visiting with or drinking with friends and readers, the concerns I hear most often relate to where people live and which wines are (and are not) available to them there.

Earlier this year I spent time in Orlando with a group of devout wine lovers who also happened to be serious collectors. One friend has a trophy cellar the size of my living room stocked with a collection of blue-chip wines from around the world with a rather remarkable cross section of vintages—a truly impressive feat in a state with a wine selection as limited as Florida's.

In many states, it's hard enough getting some of the rarest wines, and when people do, and start to drink them, it's most important to consumers that the wines are consistent and affordable.

I'm sure vintners hear the same thing when they hit the road. People come to winemaker events to meet the winemaker and taste the wines. I suspect few come to complain.

Maintaining a style that's popular is vital to a brand's success. When I'm asked about the state of affairs in California, one thing I focus on is the fact that so many of the winemakers are either young or inexperienced, and that few have had the opportunity to work with the same vineyard for 10 or 15 years. It's understandable for winemakers to modify their styles as they watch their wines age, since ageability is more important to them than it is to most wine drinkers.

People buy the kinds of wines they like. As much as the pros may fret about ripeness and alcohol, consumers prize consistency, both in style and price.

Christopher Dunn
Honolulu, HI —  May 10, 2013 3:41pm ET
As a "consumer," I must disagree. I care about style, and price, admittedly. Consistency, however, is not a particular issue as I know that wines from any given producer will vary from vintage to vintage. I like to see what a winemaker can do with harvests from good years and more challenging years. And I do care about alcohol levels. Many of us consumers are fed up with increasing alcohol levels. In fact, I think if you read the forums, you would find that many of us "consumers" are keenly interested in those attributes you think are important only to the winemaker. Otherwise, we would not subscribe to WS, would not post tasting notes, and would not organize offlines to share, compare, and enjoy.
Troy Bradley
Jacksonville, Fl —  May 11, 2013 10:28pm ET
I must agree with Mr. Dunn. Availability of what? More Napa? More overpriced "rare" wines. Please. Many are only "rare" because the media and the winery created the hype. What also does not resonate is the premise of limited selection, anywhere in Florida. I split time between WI and FL and the average ABC in the JAX Beach area has a great selection in a range of styles, price and regions, including a balance of great California wines, but not many "rare". Like many, we care a great deal about alcohol levels and style. So many great wine regions and so many great winemakers who absolutely care about style and purity of the craft. That is what is "rare" to me, not some trumped up, overpriced, media hyped hard to find wine. I understand the spirit of this blog, but it goes off track when it strays to the bias of what is "rare". Keep your "rare", I am going back to enjoying my 13.8% Sineann - C'mon man!

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