Why do we buy what we buy?
A question that has been studied and studied again by some of the best business minds in the world. Well, I would like to invite Mr. Paco Underhill (the author of “Why We Buy”) to come to St. John’s Newfoundland and examine the buying patterns of the Island Folk. I’m sure we are different. In Newfoundland, Tim Hortons, Pepsi, Coors Light (an American brand, brewed locally), Wolf Blass and Lambs reign supreme, just to name a few. Tim Hortons is the donut and coffee king across Canada or at least they portray themselves as being as Canadian as the Maple Leaf itself, so its no surprise it is successful in Newfoundland. Pepsi in Newfoundland makes sense but everywhere else the drink is called a “rum and Coke” not a “Lambs and Pepsi.” I’ve lived in three other provinces and one state and to even find a single bottle of Lambs is difficult. In Newfoundland, we have enough to sink a battle ship. I’m not trying to imply that there is anything wrong with Lambs or the people that drink it but I wonder why is it so popular on the Rock and almost nowhere else?
As Newfoundlanders, do we have better taste? Worse taste? Oh, I’ve got it… “unique.” Yes, there is no question that Newfoundlanders have unique or different tastes. To go a step further, I think its fair to say that Newfoundlanders have a reputation of being loyal and the loyalty doesn’t stop with friends and family. We are brand loyal people. Is this a good quality for us to have? Why do we buy what we buy and can we do better?? I write about wine, I sell wine and I love wine so this is where my focus will be for the remainder of the conversation. Ok, perhaps this is a monologue.
In Newfoundland, the bottles of the top selling wines are graced with kangaroos, yellow labels or just need to have “pinot grigio” written somewhere. Occasionally, the consumer will break away from the average but this break usually involves a wine that is a real big mouthful of shiraz or zinfandel with a catchy label and some good marketing. Personally, I’d describe these wines as massive, overpowering, a punch in the face if you will. Not necessarily a bad thing if that is a style of wine that you enjoy. Just one caution; make sure that you really do enjoy the style these wines provide.
What do I mean by that? Well, I guess I’m challenging you to ask yourself why you like the wines you like? Did someone tell you to like them? We all fall for that sometimes. Thats what advertising is all about, just ask Donald Draper or Roger Stirling. Did a great display pull you in? Air Miles? A sale? Robert Parker or Wine Spectator? There are so many choices and decisions to make in life that are far more important that what we drink, perhaps we are dying for some guidance, some advice.. anything… “Dear God, please tell me what to drink this evening.” Well, the silence must mean that I should I buy the same wine as last time right? Better to be safe and go with what you know?
HELL NO! I know.. right now you are expecting me to pitch you one of my wines. Well, I’m not going to do that. I think that a lot of the wines that I represent are a little too uncomfortable for the average wine drinker. They are different but they are different and great. Of course I’m biased but its my company dammit, if I didn’t like them, I wouldn’t sell them. And although I am no Paco Underhill, it would appear to me that Newfoundlanders go with comfort when making decisions. “No need to step outside the box. I know whats inside the box and it has never led me a stray”…. Makes sense but what if there is better outside of the box? What if I told you that there is a wine that will make your taste buds explode and your favoured flavours come to life tenfold in your mouth? I wouldn’t be lying. Its out there. Go find yourself a bone dry riesling. How about a trip the French section (yes, the dreaded scary French section) and see if you can find value and finesse in the Rhone Valley or Cahors.
Do you remember the movie “The Truman Show” with Jim Carey? Its a story of a man who believes the fake life that has been created for him is real but he eventually breaks free as he has sensed that there is better for him outside of what he knows in his comfortable life. I’m asking you to be Truman. Break free and try something else.
Have you not noticed that one of the greatest pleasures in life is eating and drinking? Combine these rituals in an effort to improve your pleasure. Its like the genius that decided fish and chips were good together, or coffee and milk or how about Jordan and Pippen? Food and Wine… Food and Wine. Your wine should not dominate the food, your food should not dominate the wine. They should work together to improve each other. Or at worst, be like teammates that don’t really like each other but will work together for the common good and not offend each other for the sake of the team…. in this case, the common good is to improve your dining experience. Next time you buy a bottle of wine for dinner, ask yourself if this wine will improve or lessen your food and wine experience? If you are not sure, ask someone at the store, ask me or ask your i phone. Just make a good choice. Life is too short to be buying crappy wine that will end up ruining a good meal. Fact.
Know this when picking out a wine; with so many choices available, why would you limit yourself? You can live like a King and have a different partner every evening. Of course you like some more than others but you won’t know until you try. Try something from a different country or region on every trip to the liquor store. And I’ll give you a couple of free tips; its okay for a man to drink white wine and there is more out there than Australian Shiraz, however delightful it may be from time to time.
Another tip is to just be open minded. I’ll admit that I’m generalizing a little bit but if I had to bet on what type of white wine is ordered most by women in restaurants, I’d put my money on Pinot Grigio. Once upon a time, I would have said Chardonnay but lately, PG seems to run the show. If PG is what you really like, then go for it but why limit yourselves to a generally, unexciting grape. I’m not trying to say that your favourite wine doesn’t taste good or that it isn’t refreshing, I’m just trying to say that there is more out there. Challenge your palate! I may regret saying this but in my wine tasting experience, women seem to have stronger senses of smell and taste than men. C’mon gals, help us out and fill us in on your thoughts and opinions about other wines. Guide us to prosperity. One more tip: Riesling is awesome for all occasions. Many different styles whether its dry, off dry or sweet, they can all serve a purpose. What do you drink with Asian food? Riesling. Dessert? Riesling.
I guess we all have our reasons for making the decisions we do when we are purchasing wine, spirits, beer, coffee or whatever. All I’m really trying to say is buying wine can be like buying a car. They are all different and most can get you from point A to point B. But wouldn’t you rather enjoy the ride in the best possible car available to you at that given time in place? I love Jettas but if a perfect pairing could turn that Jetta into an Audi, wouldn’t that be great? So please, put some thought into your wine buying decisions instead of relying on “old faithful.” You can do better.
Wine enthusiast Greg Winter is the owner of Dialog Wines. Check out his website and blog at www.dialogwines.com.