Sunday, February 26, 2023

If buying wine were like buying an airplane ticket

Over the past week or so, I’ve been ensnared in the rabbit hole known as buying an airplane ticket. It has been awhile since I last flew, not like when I was working and on the road constantly. Then it was just something I had to do, suffer through it, get the ticket, the car, the hotel, and move through my week. Rinse and repeat. Now I travel if I want to, not because I have to. It changes the dynamic somewhat. The sense of urgency isn’t there. And the need to be somewhere, at some time, exactly, just isn’t as pressing.

But I do have somewhere to be, and for that I need to catch a flight.

While I was going through this exercise, I imagined if every time we wanted a bottle of wine, what it would feel like to have to jump through the hoops one must jump through when arranging a flight.

Let’s take a bottle of red wine from Tuscany, for example. And let’s say I am buying it online directly from the producer.

The dominant grape variety is Sangiovese, the grape of Chianti, Nobile and Brunello.

First thing you would need to determine would be if you wanted a:

  • Basic Sangiovese Rosso IGT
  • Mainstream Rosso (Chianti Classico or Chianti Rufina DOCG)
  • Premium Economy Rosso (Like a Nobile or a Chianti Classico Riserva
  • Business Rosso (maybe a Chianti Classico Riserva Gran Selezione, a Brunello or a Nobile Riserva)
  • First Class Rosso (like a Brunello Classico Riserva or a Super Tuscan)

Ok, Let’s say I choose a Mainstream Rosso. Let’s say a Chianti Classico from Antinori for $25. I choose that wine.

As I choose a screen pops up and asks if I want to upgrade to a Premium Economy Rosso for an additional $30. Maybe a Chianti Classico Riserva.

Then another screen pops open and asks if I want to upgrade to a Business Rosso for an additional $75, like a Tignanello. I’m now up to $130, when all I really wanted was a good dependable red for $25.

If not, they are also going to ask me if I want the wine in a screw top or a cork finish. If I choose the cork, it will cost me anywhere from an additional $5-10 depending on the length of the cork.

Then they ask me if I want the bottle as a deep punt, for an additional $10.

As well, they ask me if I want the label embossed on parchment or lined in gold leaf, an additional $10-20.

Then they ask me if I want to buy a wooden box for the wine to ship in, for an additional $10.

Lastly, they ask if I want the bottle signed by the winemaker, for an additional $10.

Before I know it, I’ve gone from $25 to upwards of $200!

At that point, as it often is when looking for a plane ticket, I’d take a break from the screen to go outside and scream!

Then I would go to my local wine shop and look for a bottle of red wine from Tuscany for $25, and be done with it.

That’s what the airlines have done to us. It used to be one could find a flight, look at the price, Economy or Business/First Class, and decide if one wanted to spend $1000 or $5,000. And buy the damn ticket and get on the plane and go. But not anymore. It’s a constant barrage of buckets, trying at every turn to up-sell and squeeze the consumer out of every last dollar.

Fortunately, buying wine is much easier. For now. But what if the wine industry takes a page out of the airline industry and starts down that road? Already we are seeing the younger generations shying away from wine. Too complicated. Too many choices. Too elite. Too privileged. Not enough bang for the buck. And when all is said and done, it’s alcohol. It’s dangerous.

You think it couldn’t happen here? Look at the world we’re living in, facing disruption after disruption, in society, in our daily consumption of basic goods. In our health care. In just getting out of the house and going to work or to play.

A friend the other day asked if we wanted to go to a concert for a local artist here in Dallas. She’s real famous, lives right down the street from us. We asked about the venue.

Small club. Tickets are $140. No seating. Standing only. It will be noisy. It will be less comfortable. But that is what the venue is charging. Take it or leave it.

People aren’t taking it in the wine world. They want comfort. They want ease of entry. They want to relax and sit back and enjoy a bloody bottle of red wine.

It might or might not be coming. But stranger things have come into our world. It isn’t outside the realm of the unbelievable. But I hope it never happens.

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