Serious question. Who drinks wine? And why should we care? To be fair, it’s a complex question. I consulted the oracle of Google and came across surprisingly few straightforward answers. Those I did find were excruciatingly dry and eye-wateringly boring: market studies, analysis of market studies, and summaries of analysis of market studies. Useful information, but nothing to help us identify (with) Joe du Average.
Joe is not the representative of a homogenous group. There are many Joes. Stuffy old Joe, boring his friends to tears with obscure knowledge of wines they’ve never heard of. Young, inexperienced, on-a-budget Joe who doesn’t know much in the way of wine. Perhaps Young Joe will embark on a path of wine enlightenment, from ‘Sweet Red’ to to Syrah to Sangiovese. Or maybe he’ll never move past the boxed wine of his student days. Both are fine. There exists a multitude of permutations of Joes between Young and Stuffy Old Joe. All wine drinkers. Nothing wrong with any of them.
I am a Wino Joe. Wino Joe is about 30 and has a demanding career. Wino Joe’s weekends are planned weeks in advance, brimming with weddings, babies, friends and work. Wino Joe doesn’t yet have the endless disposable income he’s working towards but he has enough to splurge. And he likes to splurge. He loves wine. He buys wine. A lot of wine. Wino Joe is the essential target market. He buys with his eyes. He buys on a whim. He buys online. He mostly buys on word of mouth – but from trusted sources rather than promises from the marketing crowd or reviews from the most critical of critics.
Wino Joe visits Stellenbosch, Constantia and Franschhoek because it’s close, convenient and has hundreds of wines to discover. He is intrigued by the trendiest of the trendy new wine regions – Swartland and the Hemel-en-Aarde – and is prepared to travel further afield whether it be to the Klein Karoo or Olifants River – but Wino Joe has precious little spare time so these adventures are reserved for sacred weekends away.
Why care about Wino Joe? Because he is the ultimate wine consumer. Knowledgable, but with no intention of becoming a sommelier. Plentiful disposable income, but discerning about what he drinks and buys. Most importantly: he is dynamic with shifting, evolving tastes. He is learning and growing as a wine drinker. Yet he is unaffected by sales spin, regional rivalries, the politics of the industry or how many award stickers are on the bottle. He’s neither impressed nor intimidated by expensive wines. He doesn’t snub a bargain buy either. His wine education and preference is formed by his experiences. Memorable moments – a chat with the winemaker, discovering hidden gems or simply sharing a wine with good friends – cements a wine in his memory, but his bottom line is whether or not he enjoys the wine. Is it (in his modest opinion) a good wine?
Joe du Average drinks wine. Joe may understand that there is a place for each critic, each expert and each professional opinion. He may even understand that they play a vital role in shaping market and industry, driving both to seek improved quality, performance and overall standards. But that is not Joe’s concern. Joe loves wine. We should listen to Joe more closely.
Marthèlize Tredoux is the co-owner and editor at Incogvino. By day, she helps SA wineries sell their wine in the USA. She won a wine writing award once.