Dumbing down

Has anyone else had the awful survey on attitudes to French wine? From the email which uses the inane phrase ‘big fan of all French wine’ to the childishly phrased content (do you find French wines daunting?), it is apparently directed at people who have at most a casual interest in wine. It is unlikely that such people pay to join TWS. I assume it was written by some market researcher who had no idea about wine or the Society, but someone at the Society should have edited it before sending it out.

Although one of the questions is whether the respondent drinks sparkling wine, the survey assumes that everyone will say yes as this is offered as the prize.


It was only a matter of time!

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I’m a member of the Wine Society and I find French wines daunting. I therefore get the impression that you think I made a mistake spending my £20 to join the Society and that perhaps I should restrict myself to the wine aisles of Sainsburys?

I enjoy wine and have a casual interest in it. It is therefore a shame that you think I’m not a good match for the Society. Perhaps in the future the Society could ask prospective Members to take a test before allowing them to join, thus preventing any further plebs from joining your ranks.


What do you mean, ‘daunting’? I can’t imagine applying the word to a wine. Driving a car for the first time, appearing on a stage unprepared… There are many things which could be called ‘daunting’, but how can wine be ‘daunting’?


I’m not sure sure that you fully understand the meaning and usage of the word ‘daunting’ or that you actually read the previous post before replying!


When you need to chose a bottle from a restaurant list, or serve it at a dinner party? Or the waiter lets you check the wine is OK? I would always encourage people to relax in those situations, but I know it can be stressful.


Perhaps TWS should reflect on the tsunami of new members that it has attracted by making the site more ‘approachable’ and provide a more pro-active QA-style flow-chart thingy that could guide the more inexperienced through each countries offering. It should be in the remit of each of TWS buyer’s to educate at all levels. Future project perhaps?

By the way, love the thread title. Especially following ‘Is wine elitist’ Priceless!!!


See, you’re just projecting. Driving a car for the first time isn’t daunting for some people, neither is appearing on stage. Some people find things easy, whereas for others the same task appears much harder.

For a lot of people French wines are more daunting than other regions simply due to the labelling system. Standing in the Sainsburys wine aisle and asking a person to select a malbec from the Chilean section and the French section I think it is fair to say that they might find it easier, due to the labelling, to find the Chilean malbec than the French equivalent.

Is that type of person not the type of person who should join the Society? Not in my view, although I start from the position that the only requirement to join the Society is that you enjoy wine whereas you seem to believe a somewhat greater knowledge of wine should be required.

French wine, for some people, is daunting because it doesn’t use the same naming and style conventions that you might be used to if you frequently by from the New World. I don’t really understand how you cannot grasp that principle since it is a broadly understood issue in the world world.


Personally I find German wine a challenge due to its labelling. I have no problem with any other country’s labelling.

Perhaps we all need to accept that some things are more daunting/challenging to some than to others. We are all different - that’s what makes this forum as good as it is.


funny how projection lurks everywhere, but don’t you think that this argument is totally symmetric?

What you describe might be due more to a lack of knowledge of French (or similarly Italian / Spanish/Portuguese/ any country with regional based wine regulations ) wines, than anything really “dauntingly” specific about French wines.

Would you disagree?

Yes, wines can be daunting in many ways. I don’t disagree with that at all. I was surprised that someone here found it difficult to comprehend that to some people wines are daunting.

So many different styles, countries and labelling systems means it is no surprise to me that wines can be daunting to a great many people, all of whom do, however, enjoy wine.

It therefore seems strange for the original poster to criticise the Society’s attempt to find out what about what aspects of wine people do find daunting.

I have not received said survey, so cannot comment on it.

I quoted your reply because you seemed to imply there was “one” established way to classify wines - to which I was objecting.

but you acknowledge that it is more a matter of one’s customs and consumption habits ( old world vs new world , at first order… you become knowledgeable in what you buy - unless you are a wine g33k :smiley: ), and on this, I agree…

But that is ‘choosing a wine’, and the context was ordering wines from TWS, so either on line or on paper. And if anyone finds just the act of choosing a wine ‘daunting’, surely the Sainsbury wine aisle must be terrifying?

I’ve not seen this particular survey but I cannot quite get my head around why people get themselves in such a fuss when TWS send one round.

You don’t know what they’re trying to find out and it’s possible that you are not the specific target audience anyway. They’ve cleverly included a question that will help indicate that for them that will allow them to weight the value of your answers appropriately.

One hazards a guess that they would like to work out how to sell more French wine to members who don’t buy it much. They probably want to work out what’s stopping them.

Many, many people find French wine daunting. I know I do on occasions.

Many French wines don’t specify what grape they are made from - some people find that daunting. They like Sauvignon Blanc but wouldn’t know that Sancerre is Sauvignon Blanc and so is Pouily-Fume. Perhaps the member knows they like Chardonnay but the fact that a wine can say “Bouzeron, Vin de Bourgogne” on the label and another can say “Bourgogne, Vin de Bourgogne” yet only one is Chardonnay could be a little daunting.

If you’re not daunted by French wine, answer no and move on.

Also, please, “dumbing down”? There’s no intellectual or knowledge bar to being a member of TWS. It’s not an exclusive club.


I think the Society will never win this one. We want it to listen to our opinions and take our feedback seriously, and when it does - we accuse it of appealing to some imagined lower common denominator, or aiming their questions at members who know little about wine. If it didn’t send feelers, we’d call it ‘stuck in its ways’ and say it refuses to evolve/adapt/listen to its members.

Me, I filled the survey enthusiastically, went into elaborate details about what I think would improve the list, and god dammit! Would love to win the Society champagne for the ‘effort’.


Thinking about why I found the survey so offensive, I think it is because questions like ‘do you find French wines daunting’ and ‘do you have problems pronouncing French names’ seem intended to intimidate members, and imply that they must ask TWS to advise them (other questions were about advice). I don’t think that being unfamiliar with a selection or not knowing a particular language should be used to make people feel inferior. I certainly can’t pronounce Hungarian or Georgian wine names, but I don’t consider this a barrier to choosing one.

I find driving not only daughting but terryfying . Which is why at 75 i have never learnt. I like french wines as i like the French. I love all the different varieties and regions. Sampling and drinking french wines is interesting,
In Germany you have similar sorts of problems with the number of Beers. I having lunch in a german bar and being told there 125 different beers to choose from.

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I haven’t seen the survey, so I cannot comment on that. But I have certainly seen the tactic of suggesting how frightening and difficult wine is in order to sell wine education, and I hate that approach. That’s why I added the last sentence in my previous post.


I don’t find French wine daunting but that is only because I have spent lots of time reading about it, learning the classification systems and done lots of tasting at different levels, but I am a wine nerd and don’t expect others to do the same thing as me. There is no doubt that there will always exist amongst the wine drinking public various levels of knowledge.
But if someone said to me that they find French wine daunting I can quite understand that concern. My first point would be to ask them why they found French wine daunting, listen to and understand their difficulties and then try and explain the basics to them.

On a personal note I find choosing a German wine daunting because their wine laws really are complex, and not based on places but a hierarchical system based on must weight…much of the current legislation. in German wine law includes a muddled equality compromise of oversized vineyards (rather like the Alsace Grand Cru).


Although TWS fails to recognise it, German wine IS classified by region.