When seeing is not believing
In my business I see a lot of spin, not only from the usual suspects — wineries and their P.R. reps — but from other parts of the industry. The cork producers send me material showing how green their forests are and accusing alternative closures of all sorts of nastiness. The screwtop people send out press releases saying you’ll never get TCA from a Stelvin. Now, the bottle industry has crashed the spin-control party.
The bottlers heretofore have been quiet, but I suppose it was only to be expected they’d speak up now, what with the Recession forcing so many people to buy their wines in boxes, PET containers and so on. It’s the A.B.G. movement — Anything But Glass — and it’s freaking out the bottle manufacturers.
Yesterday, I got an e-blast informing me how much wine consumers prefer glass over everything else. The email had a link to the Glass Packaging Institute’s website, which reported on a brand new survey headlined
98% of American wine consumers with a preference prefer wine packaged in traditional glass bottles… reaching nearly 100% for younger wine consumers, ages 21 to 35.
According to the poll, when consumers were asked “Which type of container do you prefer when you drink or purchase wine?” 97.6% replied glass bottles. When asked “Which container do you consider best for recyling?” 73.2% answered glass. And when asked “Which container do you think does the best job of keeping the original flavor of the product” fully 95.3% replied glass.
The problem with these questions and answers is that they don’t tell the whole truth. If the 97.6% who prefer glass were asked if they preferred to spend $10 for a 750-ml. bottle as opposed to $18 for a 3-liter bag-in-a-box, which is the equivalent of $4.50 per 750-ml., what do you think their answer would have been? If the 73.2% who think glass is more recyclable than a box or PET container had the truth explained to them, their answer would have been quite different. (Is glass more recyclable than cardboard or aluminum? I don’t think so.) As for the 95.3% who think glass keeps the flavor of wine better than a box, they’re not only wrong, they’ve never had a bottled wine finished with a moldy cork.
Years ago there was a best-selling book called “Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics.” Its basic premise was that you can prove anything you want to in a poll. Here’s the money quote: “For any given issue, there is a whole range of possible opinions, not just two. The more complex the issue is, the greater the range. Nevertheless, most pollsters try to fit all opinion into the neat categories of agree/disagree, favor/oppose. These simple categories…make for powerful headlines, but they mask the color and depth of public opinion as it truly exists.”
That’s what I think is happening in this bottle survey. The pollsters asked the people simplistic questions — questions whose answers they knew they’d get — and the public replied exactly the way the pollsters knew they would. Then the pollsters present the “findings” as evidence of glass’s superiority, and of the public’s “strong” preference for it. I don’t think the public has a powerful feeling against boxes and such — especially younger ones — which is why boxed wine sells in far greater quantities than bottled wine.
By the way, I’m not saying I don’t like bottles. I do. Nor am I saying the best wines don’t come in bottles. They do. I wouldn’t want to see bottles go away. All I’m saying is that it’s awfully easy to bamboozle the American public with polls, be they about politicans or packaging.
I came across this blog that calls steveheimoff.com one of the 5 best wine blogs. The others: Vinography, Wine Library TV, Asimov’s The Pour, and Dr. Vino. Quite a prestigious list! Thank you very much, Clinton Stark. I’m honored.