What influences your wine buying? 5-29-2024

In an opinion survey by YouGov, Americans claimed “bottle or label design” was the least important factor in their selection of a wine.

That might be an expected response to an online questionnaire. Few people confess to being lured by clever critter names and images, or campy convict references, or hernia-inducing bottle weights.

But, come on, you are influenced. If you were not, wineries and marketing mavens and money managers would not pay so much attention and dollars to bottles/containers and labels. Anecdotal evidence is especially strong that people, especially those not heavily into wine, are influenced by these factors.

Today, the container is the new delta in the wine consumer equation. Screw caps were the tip of the change spear in past decades. It now is generally accepted that screw caps, also called Stelvin closures, are just another way of sealing a container and is not an indicator of inferior quality. Whole nations—New Zealand is the poster country—predominantly use screw caps. No one questions their quality, especially for wines consumed in the decade after release.

Newer battlegrounds involve containers. Massive glass bottles traditionally implied quality. That is an emotional rather than a rational response. Glass is glass. It works very well containing wine regardless of its weight. Environmentally and economically, weighty bottles make no sense in production, transportation, and disposal. Let us hope the growing trend of sensible bottle weights continues.

Non-glass is the new front line in wine packaging. Boxed wine—actually a plastic bag inside a cardboard box—has a solid base. Once the realm of cheap, inferior wine, now many makers produce quality. The fact the wine stays fresh after initial opening for a month is a huge selling point. You can’t age box wine, but almost all wine you buy is not purchased to be aged.

Tetra paks are small boxes made of cardboard, plastic, and aluminum. They are especially ideal for wines drunk young at a beach, poolside, picnic, or any situation where portability and safety from broken glass is an asset. Versions of this have worked for milk, fruit juice, and other liquids for years. Why not wines?

Cans. Similar advantages as tetra paks. Has worked for beer—for many foods and liquids—for more than a century. Why not wines?

Focus on what is in the container and how you will use it, not the closure or its weight or the material used to make it. Onward into the future of wine.

Last round: I met a microbiologist today. He was much bigger than I expected. Wine time.