Wine is a big scam

Red_wine_bottlesEveryone loves wine. People are always talking about this wine and that. How one is fruity and one has a bit too much bark. They’re earthy, chilled, or aged. Wine is a global fad that has been really big for generations. But why?

First, why is it so important to drink alcohol at a proper meal? I mean, is it so important that we need to alter our state-of-mind while we engage in discourse over a nice meal? Is the company of the others at the meal so bad that we need to mollify it with some alcohol?? Of course not. So why the attraction to ALWAYS have alcohol with a nice meal. Can you imagine a similar fad forming around grape juice (wine without the alcohol)? Imagine buying a bottle of grape juice for $200 … you’d be laughed out of town. (even when you retort, “but this grape juice was made by Baron de Rothschild!”)

Wine_glass_2Pretty much every time I go out to eat for dinner, almost everyone at the table (except for maybe the pregnant lady and the occasional practicing Mormom) is downing at least one serving of wine with their meal. Occasionally you’ll find someone ordering a beer or a martini … but invariable, people are drinking (and talking about) the wine.

In fact, there is a whole elaborate ceremony to drinking wine. First, you order it. Of course, you pick a bottle from a long list. And you try to impress your dinner attendees by pretending you know something about wine by asking really pretentious questions about the year and if it is a “reserved” label or something.

SmallwineThen you get the wine served and you stick your nose in the glass, swirl it around and say something nonsensical like “let it breath”. Just imagine saying that about a can of grape soda.

Charlesshaw_cabsav_2003And then, not to be outdone, the entire table must talk about the wine and comment on its flavor, aroma, and origin (“those Argentines have a lot of trouble managing their currency, but they sure know how to make a fine wine”). And then, just when you think the dinner as about to settle in, some people at the table use the wine to give themselves a hidden compliment (“this bottle is the same one I shared with the King of Sweden at Davos”).

There are tons of studies on wine drinkers. They all think they are better wine experts then they really are. Poll 20 of your friends and most of them will be able to tell you why they prefer a $100 bottle to a $10 bottle. But if the labels were switched, they might give you a similar answer. Is it all just a fad??

My answer: yes. Wine is a giant fad. It is surely popular and has been going on since the beginning of civilization … but the height of its popularity is now. It seems that so many people have nothing better to do than to take classes on how to “appreciate” wine.

In fact, it is a scam. I’m not saying wine is totally useless and that no one likes it … but I am saying that the great majority of people that like wine, like it because so many other people around them like wine. In this case, the Emperor might have some cloths, but it ain’t more than a speedo and some sandals.

29 thoughts on “Wine is a big scam

  1. Jeremy Epstein

    I love it when you call it like you see it.
    I was on a plane once with a professional wine taster on our way back from Argentina and he said the same thing. “It’s what you like. There’s a lot of good ‘table wine’ in Europe. In America, it’s about marketing.”

  2. Ben Smith

    Since people we know in common pay more to store thier wine than the mortgages of the people I grew up with—I have to agree…sometimes an ice tea is what is really needed with a meal. Of course that is starting to be an experience as well–with people offering me 15 different teas. I just want iced tea…well maybe I would like sweet tea..but I really don’t want passion fruit mango tea..for 8 a glass

  3. Greg Fodor

    Great post! Sending this to some of my wino friends, I’ll let you know if they have any breakdowns!

  4. jaime smith

    of course this will not show up
    the author has to edit beacuse dissending opinions matter not.
    this blog proves that anyone with a computer can preach the cult of the amateur status and seem like an expert.
    pathetic topic.

  5. Dorian

    You really don’t get it. With your logic ANYTHING could fall under your “analysis and observation” and makes this a redundant issue. Why do we have some many models of cars? Pants or jeans? Soft drinks? Just because people are enjoying this beverage and learning and experiencing new flavors and new food/wine experiences – doesn’t make it a fad. Today’s consumers are lucky that they have a myriad of choices and selections – at varying price-points, to experience this product. And it can be a part of a healthy diet and add to the enjoyment of life! I bet if there was limited product and low quality – you would bitch about that…..

  6. rebecca stephany mahmoud

    you are sad and typical…whenever someone has no knowledge or appreciation for something (whatever it may be)…if they just don’t get it…then the finger pointing begins.
    wine is a scam? the real scam is you, trying to be some sort of authority.
    educate yourself!
    rebecca mahmoud

  7. rebecca stephany mahmoud

    dear auren,
    so let me understand this…just because YOU don’t have an appreciation for wine, wine is a SCAM? how typical of you to jump to such a sophmoric conclusion. “i don’t understand it, therefore it must be evil.” what era are you from?!
    certainly the probelm can not lay within your own inabilities? the entire industry MUST be wrong, because even though wine has been enjoyed by millions over thousands of years by cultures around the world…auren the blogger has spoken and wine is a scam.
    what is the real scam auren? just because you blog, doesn’t make you an authority…on anything. the REAL scam is that you are presenting yourself as an authority on something you obviously know nothing of. that’s the scam!
    stop adding to the useless mounds of misinformation on the internet and educate yourself.
    rebecca mahmoud

  8. Steve E

    Well put.
    I don’t agree with your conclusion that wine is a scam, but I agree with your analysis of the facts. A scam is by definition a swindle, but wine lovers aren’t being swindled by anyone but themselves. Electing to become a wine aficionado (or coffee lover, or cigar enthusiast) is a transparently personal choice; it’s like choosing to follow the rituals of a religion– perhaps silly, perhaps pointless, but nonetheless personally justifiable if it floats the boat.

  9. Eric Di Benedetto

    “Everyone loves wine”. Yes, maybe wine has become the most talked about status symbol as we are all observers of and participants in a global movement towards taste uniformization. Auren has a point. Having been a humble wine amateur since managing a wine store while in business school in Paris up to becoming a “Chevalier du Tastevin” thanks to a Silicon Valley friend of mine last year, I never cease to be amused (silently and politely) by the “W.I.S” (“Wine Insecurity Syndrome”) that keeps breeding the most ridiculous social behaviors and definitely poor financial decisions as far as cellaring is concerned. In any event, I would encourage other true wine amateurs to watch the worndefully enlightening movie “Mondo Vino”. Here are the related link and editorial review. From “In vino, veritas” to “In vino, stupido” as a consequence of globalization? Cheers!!!
    Product Description
    The ultimate film about wine and wine culture, Mondovino offers an unprecedented look into the conflicts, conspiracies and alliances of the wine trade. Filmed by award-winning director Jonathan Nossiter, Mondovino has sparked controversy in its theatrical run among wine producers, distributors and consumers as it shed light on the esoteric world of wine. Hailed as “Fahrenheit 9/11 for the grape” by MSNBC.
    An epic exploration into the modern world of wine, Mondovino was filmed across three continents, in five languages, over a three-year period. With an insider’s access and an artist’s eye, Nossiter weaves together multiple family and multi-generational sagas, all stemming from the production, distribution and consumption of one of the oldest, most respected and still-affordable luxuries. Juxtaposing artesian wine growers with multi-national conglomerates, and peasants with billionaires, the film gives voice to those who create, critique and are involved in the commerce of wine, offering up a surprisingly prismatic, varied and sometimes controversial glimpse into something everyone enjoys but few people know much about.

  10. Rachel Black

    Why don’t you try to educate yourself a little before you go writing total garbage. Your blog is a testament to your ignorance and lack of knowledge. Wine is not a fad: it is an important element of sociability and commensality in many cultures.
    Oh well, more wine for everyone else.

  11. Tom

    I’m not sure how you can call something that’s been around for thousands of years a “fad”.

  12. Steve Russell

    Your blogs are a scam! I’ve read through a few and they’re total uninformed spew… at least freedom of speech is preserved for rants like yours, and Typepad is getting some mileage.

  13. reb

    I don’t think wine is the problem, it’s the people you seem to surround yourself. Wine is an ancient craft and when drinking it, if you are knowledgeable, you can appreciate the land which the grapes came from and with the people who work the land and make the wine. But which wine tastes good is subjective and that is where people get too wound up in pretentiousness. It is sad that you discount something that can be so delightful simply because you hang out with a bunch of ignorant snobs.

  14. Gopan Madathil

    Couldn’t agree more with some of Auren’s observations.
    Wine industry by and large is 80% marketing, 10% promotion and
    10% product It is about great marketing and it is a known fact that
    most of us often buy wine by looking at the label.
    A good friend of mine, a former President at Sprint, a wine conossieur
    himself now buys wine from …. Walmart of all places. He says the
    BV White Zin at less than $10 a bottle is one of the best wines he
    has ever had!
    Now as of me, I am no wine expert – but a bottle that doesn’t leave
    me high and dry because of sulfite and one that’s not too dry works
    for me. So, for the chardonnay’s and merlots, I am for it!

  15. karla

    What’s not to like? Wine tastes good, it makes you feel good AND if used in moderation is good for your health and heart. A can of grape soda? Not so much. Yes, the pretention is annoying, but that has more to do with the people you are hanging out with than the wine you are drinking. Your logic about it being a “fad” around “since the beginning of civilization” is also slightly flawed, no? Quite a long standing “fad” I would say. The “scam” is that your friends / dinner companions are posers. Don’t blame the wine for that! Find someone else to go to dinner with and enjoy the drink for what it is – delicious!

  16. Diane Crossfield

    So the comments are moderated and won’t appear unless the author has “approved” them? More like unless the author isn’t threatened by them.
    You seem to think you are cute and witty with your commentary … I think it shows your low level of self-confidence (and perhaps intellect?) What did kids do back in the 7th grade when they felt insecure about something? Why, they made fun of other kids, so they would seem cool and confident!
    Comparing wine to grape soda is an insult to all of the agricultural workers who spend time in the vineyards, the winemakers who truly sweat over getting the wine just as it should be. In fact, your commentary, based on LITTLE knowledge, slams an entire enterprise of very hard-working and dedicated people.
    You are obviously one the few who feel so threatened and intimidated by wine that you must mock it and those associated with it.
    Just go back to grape soda, ok?

  17. jon staenberg

    thank goodness for choice, no? Wine is not a scam and is not a fad. It is many things though and one of the most interesting consumer marketing challenges i know of…which is why i am getting into the business. I hope some day to convince you to buy a case :).

  18. Alexander Lloyd

    Every thing you’ve said about wine you could say about Art. Is Art a fad and a scam too?

  19. Carlos Ayala

    Wow. This reminds me of an older friend of mine who has never used the internet. He’s great at building houses, but he’s ignorant of such a huge part of what makes my life a pleasure: computers and the internet. After a beer (or yes, a glass of wine) or two, he goes on and on speaking like an authority about how the ‘net is a fad and a waste of time. It’s gotten to the point that I’m a bit embarrassed to be around him when he talks like that.
    In the same way his rants about the ‘net being a worthless fad sound astonishingly ignorant to those who understand the internet, your comments about wine illustrate a similar ignorance. If you are unable to appreciate a fine bottle of wine, I highly recommend taking some courses. It is no different than good music, good art or many of the other fine things in life. Trying to claim that something YOU don’t understand is all pretentious BS is something I’d be hesitant to do publicly around people who do understand it. You are basically saying that otherwise smart and successful people throw huge amounts of money down the drain in a huge case of the emperor having no clothes.
    A lot of people haven’t had a chance to develop their palette yet to appreciate good wines and you shouldn’t be embarrassed being one of those people. I would be a little careful about calling everyone else frauds though. I may not understand ballet or some types of art, but I’m not going to try and cover up my ignorance by insulting others who do get it. Other than good music and good art, I can’t think of anything that has stood the test of time as much as the appreciation of fine wine.

  20. MARKG


  21. TJ's Weblog

    Why wine (or the wine industry) is a scam…

    Auren relieves some pressure and rants about the inflated prices and priorities for wine. First, why is it so important to drink alcohol at a proper meal? I mean, is it so important that we need to alter our state-of-mind…

  22. Mary Hodder

    Hi Auren,
    I enjoy wine a lot, but one of the reasons I gave up California wines (and other US wines) was because I felt we were paying for the real estate in the price of the bottle (and also because the sugar and alcohol content tends to be higher and it was making me sick).
    I just don’t think it’s necessary to pay a lot to drink good stuff, and because prices for European wines tend to be so much lower (even now with the Dollar so low) for comparable stuff, that you don’t have to justify buying it with the marketing, the pretentiousness, and the whole going on and on discussion. You just drink it, because it’s nice with the food. I like to cook, and taste the food, and American and Austrialian wines blow out the food and I didn’t like that much either. I love how Jay MacInerny discusses American reds as being like Arnold Schwartenager’s muscles and American whites as being like Pamela Anderson’s breasts. He may be extremely pretentious himself about wine but it was pretty funny when I heard it.
    Anyway, I think what you are really saying is that you hang with a bunch of people that feel that they have to justify their wine purchases since they are so expensive and therefore parrot the marketing that sells them the $200 bottle (utterly ridiculous).
    I would suggest that you can drink a lot of great European wine for around $9 to $25 a bottle, that works with the food instead of against it. I’d be happy to share my three wine shop guys with you.. they aren’t pretentious as all and there is no marketing.
    I don’t think wine is a fad (after 5,000 years, it’s not really fad) but I do think marketing California real estate prices into the cost of the wine, and justifying that sort of thing with the marketing is. That’s what new. And faddishly distasteful.

  23. AccupleutequE

    Dear Mister Language Person: What is the purpose of the apostrophe?
    Answer: The apostrophe is used mainly in hand-lettered small business signs
    to alert the reader than an “S” is coming up at the end of a word, as in:
    Another important grammar concept to bear in mind when creating hand- lettered
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    — Dave Barry, “Tips for Writer’s”

  24. sober living california

    Wine is an alcoholic beverage typically made of fermented grape juice.The natural chemical balance of grapes is such that they can ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes or other nutrients. thanks for the post.


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