old wine barrelsThe current fashion for good stories in the wine industry follows a peculiar logic.

Good stories stand on their own. They are enjoyable, interesting, informative, sometimes gripping—a good story always makes information more accessible. A winery’s story can offer all of that. More importantly, it can help us understand their wines and where they came from.

But is the story more important than the quality of the wine? Would you eat in a restaurant with a good backstory if the food was bad? Would you read a book by an author with an interesting biography if the book was boring and  uninformative?

Pleasure isn’t the only reason we might consume something. We might want to experience an unfamiliar dish or important book even if we don’t expect to like it. There is always something to be learned from an experience. The same is true for wine—a wine with an interesting backstory might be worth a try just out of curiosity or “for science” as my son says. But once you conclude a wine offers nothing of interest, why care about the story?

For the consumer, good stories can enhance good wine. They will do little for bad wine.

One reason for the current fascination with stories in the wine industry is that many wines taste the same. There is little distinctive about them. A winery can draw attention to itself with a good story even if their wines are pedestrian. It makes good business sense but is otherwise peculiar.

If you make great wine you won’t need a story. If you make bad wine, your story won’t help. If your wine is O.K. maybe the story keeps you in business.

Are good stories for the mediocre?