Does America Have "Poor Wine Self-Esteem"?

October 16th, 2009 • 5 Comments


Does America Have Poor “Wine Self-Esteem”

I saw the awesome Gary Vay – Ner – Chuk on his #aucrush #crushit “Crush It” book tour this past Wednesday at American University’s Kogod College of Business. I wasn’t just seeing Gary to hear about his book, but frankly I had a bit of an agenda: I wanted to promote my own book “I Drink on the Job” on his fun web show Wine Library TV (I have good news at the conclusion of this Blog Post!). Since I obviously wanted to draw some attention to myself in an audience of 200+ mostly college students, I wanted to ask a relevant question about wine to get Gary’s point of view. I was so excited/thrilled when the Moderator pointed at me to ask a question, I literally jumped up in the air, I was really pumped up by the show!

My question for Gary was about American’s “confusion” with wine and what he thought the problem was. In usual Gary fashion, probably the most quotable man in the wine business as well as all of Wine 2.0, he spewed out one-liners like “We’re stuck on 16 adjectives”, “People have no wine self-esteem”, and “I’ve seen grown men sweat at a business dinner..” His key point was that there’s a lack of what he calls “wine self-esteem” in the U.S. I thought this was something to delve into further because it’s one of the main reasons that I wrote my book “I Drink on the Job”.

According to Wikipedia Definition “Self-esteem”: “Self-esteem” is a term used in psychology to reflect a person’s overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. According to Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV WineLibraryTV, his newest book “Crush It” Crush It and many other entrepreneurial ventures, this is the biggest “problem” among American wine consumers today. Here’s the UStream Video of the event Gary Vaynerchuk Video at AU Crush It (I’m at about the 36th minute, he definitely noticed me!).

Throughout my book, I mention episodes of tension with American wine consumers in the real world. Examples include the woman who almost fainted when she found out I had purchased wines with screw top closures for her corporate event, the gentleman who almost went ballistic when I suggested that Robert Parker may not in fact be a “wine God”, and the woman who would not accept a pour of wine from me – at a wine tasting! Throughout my twelve year career in wine, I have experienced so much wine anxiety that I think Gary hit it right on the head – it’s actually American’s lack of “wine” self-esteem. Much of the proof of this is anecdotal, but when I teach TasteDC’s TasteDC Website wine course Wine Basics 101, I get the same questions over and over again: what do the “legs” of wine mean, is a more expensive wine a better wine, how long should a wine age, etc. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the questions, in fact, I think it’s very healthy to have strong curiosity about wine. I think the problem is that too many people believe there is in fact a right and a wrong answer. Too many wine professionals portray wine as something “difficult”, “complicated” and “mystical” – why else would they “de-mystify” wine? You only de-mystify, what is a mystery. What if wine professionals simply told new wine consumers to try a wine first and see if that person gains pleasure or to make wine part of daily meals? I spend over 200 pages in my book “I Drink on the Job” portraying wine as an everyday staple – drink it every day with your meals and the mystery disappears like the secrets to a magic trick. Once you get past the “illusion” of wine, it becomes an enjoyable part of your day, and a way to improve the pleasure of your meals.

As I always like to say: “Drink first, ask questions later”..but of course, I’m..

Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler

5 Responses to “Does America Have "Poor Wine Self-Esteem"?”

  1. Heidi McLain Says: October 16th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Charlie–I think you are dead-on about this, but you’ve got the term wrong. You should be using the term “confidence,” not “self-esteem.” American wine drinkers lack confidence about buying, ordering, serving or just talking about wine. That’s why I created the To Your Taste! Wine Party Kit–to give wine consumers the skills they need to feel confident about wine!

    To your taste!

  2. Jessyca Frederick Says: October 16th, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Great post! I totally agree with you. That’s why we started a blog which helps consumers feel comfortable going to the store and picking out a wine to drink. And another website to help people feel comfortable picking a wine club, too. We see that so much of the wine chatter on the web is about $50+ bottles and esoteric descriptions of wines when people really want to know at the most basic level whether or not they’ll like it and that they didn’t get hosed for the privilege of drinking it.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. idrinkonthejob Says: October 17th, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Agreed – but it’s not my quote, it’s Gary V’s! Still, new ideas and ways of looking at things stir things up a bit..if wine education continues on its current path, we in the business will continue to deal with the same old misunderstandings and confusions. Change in the wine business is good for all – yes, there will be some losers when consumers begin to understand that they don’t need to spend $30 or more for a decent bottle of wine, much less $15 or more, but the wine industry has proved its resilience. Frankly, the biggest change will probably come from consumers – so many of them are learning to make wine, and that definitely takes a different mentality. OK, back to the book!

  4. tricerapops Says: October 27th, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    a great topic – and despite this lack of self-esteem/confidence, we’re still one of the largest consumers of wine in the world (albeit due to size/wealth of the consumer base, I’m sure – – we can still improve in per capita figures).

    de-mystifying wine is sometimes abused, and often times at the hands of a ‘teacher’ who only ends up pushing their agenda/experience upon his/her pupils, with regards to enjoying grown up grape juice. i know of times when i’ve been told that wine shop X is staffed with a courteous staff that will answer any and all questions – but when push came to shove, i still felt a bit of snootiness when i asked basic questions. maybe it’s i’m oversensitive, maybe the associate was indeed being snooty – the answer likely lies in between. The point is – and this just reinforces your post – that with this level of paranoia and anxiety – no wonder we’re gunshy with wine!? damn, i need a drink……

  5. weeklywinejournal Says: December 11th, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I concur! A lack of wine self Esteem is what I deal with on a weekly basis. Second to that, and it may even be a bigger problem is when the esteem is over come and people actually think they know something when they don’t. I am totally guilty of that! Socrates? The only thing I know is that I know nothing. That should keep me out of trouble.

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