10/18/2010 12:19 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Bad Times Might Help Us Find a Real Wine Culture

Just a few years ago, before the economic meltdown of 2008, there seemed to be a barrier between wine as a part of our eating culture, and wine as a central prop for having the right "label" to show off. Today, there is more pride than ever in finding the great undiscovered wines that represent real values in the marketplace. I am sure this is in response to our economic condition, but at the same time, I think it gives us a little more opportunity to develop a more mature and pragmatic approach to buying , consuming, and enjoying wine.
I find it encouraging to see consumers picking up wine packaged in tetra-pack containers, wine bars pouring from a keg, and more and more creativity to find real value for the consumer. There is a real shift from an industry that was built on winery branding to the brand loyalty of those who can provide the best selection of wines at the fairest price. The messenger; whether it is the internet, your local retailer, a sommelier, or another news source; have become the brand for sources of wine information; a far more healthy marketplace than an industry that was predominantly getting their information from Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator only a few years ago. This growth pattern of sources takes away some of the semi-monopoly of wine evaluation, and opens it up to a far greater amount of sources that have a far wider range of interests and opinions. The good news is there wouldn't be room for these sources, if there wasn't a growing market with an interest.

Wine & food lifestyle pioneers

Some very astute American wine education pioneers; with Joshua Wesson and Kevin Zraly at the forefront, long ago showed a deeper understanding that we would not be a wine drinking country until we took the "snob element" away. These two helped popularize that wine can be accessible to all food, and they have promoted the efforts of regional winemakers around the country (a natural complement to our local food sources). They have also promoted relatively unknown regions of popular wine producing countries. The result of these efforts is that many people have opened themselves to trying wines from all over the world.

What Does This All Mean?

While there are still iconic wines that represent the pinnacle of wine production; most wines are made with more immediate consumption in mind. People with more modest budgets can drink terrific wines that fit their taste preferences; and there is probably a writer, reviewer, blogger, retailer, or importer who can show you some new discoveries. The world of wine is wide open, and is certainly a subject that proves " the more you know, the more you know you don't know."