Margaret Rand raised this issue on Tim Atkin’s site last month, in an article titled “In Search of Familiarity”. Rand argued that familiarity is far more important than originality or difference to consumers of fine wine, and winemakers put too much emphasis on originality. This challenges our contemporary approach to wine. If differences don’t matter, why do we need hundreds of thousands of wineries that exist presumably because they offer differences? Her main premise supporting this claim is that most consumers can’t identify, in a blind tasting, the signal of terroir in the wines they prefer. Thus, the differences can’t be what motivate consumers to buy.
Since I have just published a book defending the view that variation and difference drive our interest in wine, I felt compelled to respond.
Rand, of course, is right that most consumers of fine wine cannot pick out their favorite wine in a blind tasting. However, I think this fact is irrelevant and her conclusion thus lacks support.
Tim Atkin generously published my response on his website. Head over there and discover why differences matter even if we are klutzes about recognizing them.