It’s been creeping up on me. The influence of the webosphere has been slowly gnawing away at my enjoyment of immersing myself in long, languid, flowery prose full of multisyllabic descriptions and a syntax that draws out deep, carefully constructed ethereal emotions.
Each day the vicissitudes of the soundbite era pull me deeper into superficial strings of words, many of which attempt to communicate to me with nary a verb in each abbreviated sentence. News stories, web messages, e-mails from friends, longer than the unwritten rule of the three-minute attention span limit, constantly bombard me.
How I long for the pre-Facebook/Twitter era when proper grammar was highly valued and expected and when acronyms were used exclusively in the military and the corporate world. The Twitter police force me to encapsulate my thoughts and messages in 280 characters, although I seem somewhat the outlier since the average Tweet is only 33 characters.
So I’ve resorted to compromising my communication style by retaining my old school sensibility while occasionally resorting to the new school paradigms. I’ve been able to remain enmeshed in 21st century conversations, written and verbal.
However, yet another societal influence has blindsided me. Why communicate a concept, principal or other cogent argument employing words when one can resort to a numerical expression? Which expression do you prefer? “Medical concerns abound over rising alcohol consumption in America” or “5%, the increase in alcohol consumption from 1999 to 2019.”
Which statement carries an intellectual effectiveness and which merely expresses a statistic, devoid of a context? I encounter this in every media outlet. In a number of instances, I’ve encountered newspaper reports that place as much emphasis on raw facts and stats as on measured analysis.
Oftentimes, these facts and stats ring hollow, lacking context for the meaning of the data. “Americans prefer wines produced domestically.” “25% of wines Americans drink are imported, principally from Italy.”
I encountered the following report last week. My perspective in evaluating this report: Statistics don’t lie, but they don’t always tell the truth. And its corollary: 99 percent of all statistics only tell 49 percent of the story.
The Top 10 wines imported into the United States in 2018, and their market share, based on sales, not volume:
- Italy, 32.9 percent; 2. France, 29.2 percent; 3. New Zealand, 7.8 percent; 4. Australia, 6.4 percent; 5. Argentina, 5.9 percent; 6. Spain, 5.7 percent; 7. Chile, 3.8 percent; 8. Portugal, 2.4 percent; 9. Germany, 2.1 percent; 10. South Africa, 1 percent.
At first glance, the report seems very informative. Italy and France have captured the majority of the import market, which represents about 25 percent of overall American wine sales. While other countries have gained a foothold, they trail far behind. Would you have guessed New Zealand and Australia are ahead of Argentina and Spain? Not I.
What the statistics don’t tell us:
- The impact of the price range of the wines. The average price of a bottle of Italian wine is one-third less than a French bottle. How does that influence the market share? Italy would hold strong at 34.2 percent, but France drops to 18.3 percent. Australia jumps to third place, with Chile and Argentina in hot pursuit. New Zealand drops to seventh place.
- The geographic concentration of the imported wines. Do consumers in New York have the same buying habits as those in the Midwest? Most likely not.
- The impact of grape preferences. The popularity of Italian Pinot Grigio and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc significantly influence the rankings of those countries.
- The impact of individual brand names. It would seem logical that the sustained popularity of Yellow Tail has buoyed Australia’s position in fourth place. Likewise, the impact of Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio on Italy’s ranking.
How to assess this particular report? As with most data with which we are bombarded, we must place it in the context of the factors that inform our unique decisions. Above all, don’t succumb to today’s trend of internet marketing: don’t ask what consumers want, tell them what they need.
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.