The Wine Industry: It’s Alright, Because it’s All White!

A-Bunch-of-White-People-Sat-Around-Drinking-WineThe inimitable Steve Heimoff certainly has a way with words. He recently wrote:

Yesterday’s stunning news that more minority babies are being born in the U.S. than white babies, for the first time ever, has tremendous implications for the domestic wine industry.

The problem, which in my opinion the wine industry has never wanted to admit much less deal with, is that wine is pretty much an upscale beverage for white people of European heritage. That’s worked well, in the past, but with these demographic changes (California already has more people of color than whites), a strategy that used to work seems destined to fail in the future.

I don’t see Latino or Hispanic people drinking wine, and the same goes for Asians and Blacks. African-Americans seem to prefer fortified drinks, like cognac, or beer, if they drink at all. The same goes for Latinos. Asian people don’t seem to drink very much wine either. Of course, as members of any one of these groups make money through the professions, they’re more likely to enjoy wine.

About the only people of color you see in wine country are Mexican immigrants who work in the fields or clean white people’s houses. At fancy wine events, there’s a smattering of Asians, but I think you could count them on the fingers of two hands at an event like Premier Napa Valley. As for African-Americans, you’d never know that America even had any, if you limited your explorations to wine country.

I point out these inconvenient truths not to embarrass or confront the wine industry, but to make the point that it’s going to have to figure out how to get everyone to drink wine, if it wants to stay viable in 10, 20, 30 years. Unfortunately, I don’t see any evidence that anyone’s really thinking about this. Look at the advertisements in wine magazines, and ask yourself if there’s anything there that would entice a person of color to buy wine.

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My Thoughts…

Holy sh*t, Steve!!! I actually had to read the article twice to make sure I’d understood it correctly!

In its simplest form, my take-away is that Steve Heimoff thinks wineries and wine brands need to increase their targeting towards “people of color,” otherwise they’ll inevitably suffer the consequences once the increased population of minority babies gets old enough to drink.

I actually commented on Steve’s blog to ask what this supposed “ideal” or “targeted” advertising would look like?
Steve responded with: “Dear Kris Chislett, I’m not an advertising guy, so I can’t tell you what such an ad would look like.”

Shame. I was looking forward to having my mind blown twice in one day…

I think I’m clearly missing something here. Not once have I ever in my life thought of wine as being a beverage that “caters mainly to white people.” Not once.
Are there differences between the beverage of choice across the races? Sure there are, but there are also huge differences between the flavor profile of wines that white people drink, based on any number of different socio-economic factors.

There is no doubt in my mind that the recent “Moscato craze” was fueled by the African-American demographic (based on the prevalence of the fizzy-sweet-white-beverage popping up in countless rap songs), and I have no doubt that Moscato ads will (if they haven’t already) be skewed towards people of color.

As far as I’m concerned, wineries and wine brands have absolutely no place in tailoring their ads towards specific ethnic groups, and any attempt to do so will come off blatantly obvious and tasteless.


  • May 22, 2012

    Larry The Wine Guy

    Many products tailor ads to specific ethnic groups. They may tailor different ads to different ethnic groups for the same product. Why should wine be different? If done right, it will not be “obvious and tasteless”. There’s nothing wrong with this either. 

  • May 22, 2012

    Kris Chislett

    “If done right” – is easier said than done. Point me in the direction of a wine ad that targets ethic groups that isn’t “obvious and tasteless” and I will become a true believer.

  • May 22, 2012

    Larry The Wine Guy

    Wine advertising isn’t currently geared to ethnic communities. Steve Heimoff’s point was that it should be. My point was that other companies do it. So why not wineries? Nestle’s (not a wine company) targets ethnics. Others do too. Here is Nestle’s Hispanic Facebook page. What is obvious and tasteless about it? 

  • May 22, 2012

    Kris Chislett

    Nope you’re right, that works. However, that was why I didn’t want to get off-track and start a discussion about all forms of advertising targeting minorities. I can only speak looking at it from a wine perspective. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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