Barefoot for President

Jeff Siegel, aka the Wine Curmudgeon, has a push-pull relationship with Barefoot Cellars. As a consumer advocate, Jeff defends the wine against:

“The Winestream Media, which insists it is the voice of the consumer, pays almost no attention to brands like Barefoot, which are the wines most of us drink.”

As a wine critic here’s  Jeff reviewing the Barefoot Pinot Noir:

“There’s nothing especially wrong with the pinot, and you get your $6 worth. It’s just that nothing really stands out. There’s some fake oak on the finish that imparts a chocolate-like taste, and it’s fruity (red fruit?) in the way that California pinot noirs like Mark West are fruity.”

You can read the whole review here: Barefoot wine review 2012

But I think Jeff really sees more to this winery than any appeal it has for what he calls the Winestream Media. Here Jeff weighs in:

“The Wine Magazines, whether true or not, are seen as the public face of the wine world. And it’s not a welcoming face for newcomers and aspiring wine drinkers. The winespeak is bad enough, but the bigger obstacle is the wine they write about, which is pricey and often hard to find.

The result? We have two wine worlds — the wine people drink and the wine that the magazines write about. Which is bad enough. What’s worse is that too many wine producers figure the latter is more important than the former. They live to get a good score, even if it’s not necessarily going to help them sell more wine.”

Jeff is less of a wine advocate, more of a consumer advocate, looking to find wines for more people entering the wine drinking culture here in America.

“The United States is not a wine drinking country. We are a soft drink country, and most of us don’t know anything about wine. What most of us do know is that wine is confusing and expensive and reserved for really special people who can talk funny about it. And anyone who loves wine who denies this is kidding themselves. I got a release the other day from a new wine club that said it would demystify and de-snobify wine — and then used the same foolish winespeak to describe how wonderful its wines were.

Given this, is it any wonder that most Americans buy wine strictly by price? Mark Bittman, the New York Times food writer and top-flight cookbook author, put this into perspective for me during an interview several years ago. Most people, he said, look at wine as an alcohol intake system. They drink wine because it makes them feel good. They really don’t care about the wine stuff. I see this every time I do a public event, and ask the audience if a $100 wine is 10 times better than a $10 wine. The audience, almost every time, offers a unanimous no. It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong; it’s their perception that counts.”

Something else is going on here and I think Jeff is on to something. Is Barefoot better than Lafite? Of course not. Is it better than Two Buck Chuck? From a consistent standpoint, it often is. And from an availability consideration, it surely is.

Fact: Barefoot is the country’s top selling wine brand. 10 million plus cases sold yearly. They’ll probably never get 100 points from Robert Parker, but the millions of folks who don’t read the Wine Advocate (or care) won’t suffer because of it.

Bottom line: Barefoot is providing a lot of affordable pleasure to folks in these trying economic times. It’s a lesson that, if our politicians would embrace, we’d all be in better shape.

Read more about the Barefoot phenomenon from Jeff Siegel HERE

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