sutter homeAn ideology is a set of beliefs used to lend legitimacy to a particular set of interests.

Wine populism is an ideology that consists of five claims:

1. The wine world is populated by snobs whose mission in life is to make you feel bad about your wine preferences or lack of wine knowledge.

2. There is no such thing as genuine wine expertise and little difference between fine wines and commodity wines.

3. Thus, the only relevant advice to give people about wine is that they should drink what they like.

4. People who have wine expertise have little understanding of the preferences of ordinary wine drinkers.

5. Thus, people with wine expertise are destroying the wine industry by making wine intimidating to people who lack such expertise.

Please don’t point out to the wine populist that 2 contradicts 4 and 5. They will get upset and accuse you of being a wine snob.

Needless to say, I think 1-5 are false. #3 is especially pernicious, head-in-the-sand ignorant. Rather than providing my own rebuttal, I will send you to Jamie Goode who recently posted a blow by blow refutation of wine populism. His final paragraph is a good summary:

Thus we are all being urged to ride this wave of wine populism, where the very essence of what makes wine interesting and attractive has to be eliminated (or at least well hidden) and the people who help people on their journey into wine (the experts – sommeliers, buyers and writers) are cast as the baddies and ruled to be illegitimate. It’s crazy.

When confronted with an ideology, especially one that seems crazy, it’s best to begin an analysis by asking whose interests it serves. Who would benefit from convincing people that wine expertise is baloney?

As usual in these matters, just follow the money. 70% of wine sales by volume in the U.S. are for wines under $10. Only about 5% of the population will ever by a wine over $20. There are a lot of people selling cheap wine who have an interest in persuading you that you’re getting good value. And there are a lot of people who want to feel that they’re getting good value and don’t need to spend more.

That’s a lot of incentive to buy into wine populism.