For those who don't know what that means, that’s essentially the antithesis to “traditional wine” by way of all the modern tools available today. These tools, or “advancements”, extend far beyond the actual wine making part too, and include advancements in grape farming, business financing, marketing and global distribution. A lot has changed in the 8000-year-old world of wine in just the last 40 years.
Proponents of industrial production say that it appropriately responds to our ever-growing economy and escalating human population by scaling itself accordingly, and its use of scientific and technological advances are in keeping with the modern lives real people live today. By employing all these measures, “industrially produced” wine is able to keep prices far lower than traditional wine and reach more people who otherwise would never drink wine.
But critics argue that real wine can not be elevated above the natural processes. Industrial manipulation and “scaling-up” only creates a fake version of the real thing, and it’s an erosion of the truth to liken it to the authentic version. “It’s either real or it’s not; There are no gradations,” the purists claim. And traditional wine is usually characterized by it’s business models which are individually owned and personally financed. This, arguably, keeps outside pressures at bay and the focus on nature.
You can read more about leading arguments on both sides from Bianca Bosker and Eric Asamov, whos' opinions toil with additional baggage, such as wine snobbery, farm and cultural ethics, and true artistry. These are great reads!
I think both sides have good, valid points but my ultimate opinion comes down to this: What is more accurate in the minds of the consumer, or said another way, what does the customer "picture" when they picture “wine”? Because this is a matter of truth we are talking about, and despite tolerating all the other trade-offs, sacrificing the truth is not acceptable.
Do customers picture the truth when they grab a 10$ bottle of wine from Trader Joes, or, is there something hiding in the bottle that the industrial wine-producer doesn't want us to know about the farming, the business model, and the wine-production methods? But here's the question that this is really all about: Is it forgivable that wine-marketing be intentionally misleading now that we have entered a new world where "we know we are being lied to" but do nothing about it.
(This ends up looking a lot like the “fake news” argument: Does misleading people eventually become an accepted form of new reality? No wonder this is a timely debate going on in the wine world today!)
------Well, well, well... If the wine world only knew what was going on in the cider world these past five years!!! As the US Cider Association and other trade organizations have quickly, perhaps hastily, sought to unify any-and-all things "cider," the most pressing question of all has been intentionally subverted: Is industrial produced/ industrial farmed/ and industrially financed hard-cider really cider at all? And, if isn't, how can true cider align itself with the fake?
You can guess my opinion on the matter. And it’s not very compromising. I can understand why industrial producers would want to associate with the little guy (to make it look like their product is linked to nature, small farms, and tradition, (marketing)) but why did the majority of smaller producers help subvert this all-important distinction? When cider-alliances were being formed (and a lot have in the last 5 years) why have so many small guys shelved their only advantage?
The answer I get time and time again is this: “The rising tide floats all boats.” Like Bianca Bosker, they argue smaller producers will reap unforeseen benefits from the influx of industrial-sized marketing dollars. They believe that having cider available everywhere, like beer and cheap wine, extends cider into markets and a demographic that may eventually find true cider too.
What they argue might be correct. I concede that “All cider” sales are up these past five years (including mine,) and a possible reason for this is the increased visibility of “cider” from dubious sources, but I reject the trade-off with elements of the truth. This involves what the customers imagine to be true. Are customers 100% aware of where industrial/ Modern cider breaks from their vision of cider? Absolutely not.
Big cider money might amount to free advertising for the little guy... but nothing is free. The trade-off is far worse.
I have seen mega-companies spend millions of dollars to lure customer into associating their products with traditional cider. And working the other way around, I have also seen dozens of small companies from Vermont to Maryland, from Michigan to Oregon attempt to "go industrial” without losing the perception of being traditional. But in the end, I will not, and can not, cooperate with them in the erosion of truth as presented to the customer, even if it were beneficial to me. Protecting the truth is more important than money.
Getting back to the real definition of cider (and is industrial cider still “cider”)… The relationship we have with the customer is inseparably part of the definition. The customer is not a blank slate for marketing to persuade. To the contrary, the customer is part of the tradition. They have a vision for cider. They believe in it. We must serve that truth, or be very clear that we are approaching it differently.
This is my flood warning to all those who wish to collaborate with the big guy (Big cider, Bigger money, and Big apple farming): The rising tide does float all boats if the boat is no longer tethered to land. But cider, as the customer believes it to be, is not the tide, it is the land. Cider is: farms, farmers, apple trees, and the local population, all immediately clustered around these combined components. This is what the customer believes and this truth is the goal. So to stretch the truth by "going-industrial”, scaling above your area, or to mislead the customer about the process, in my mind, is unforgivable. Even if a portion of the product is authentic the overall brand becomes tainted by dishonestly. And this extends up into trade associations too: Some of the producers might be the real deal, but if they are aligned with dishonest producers their credibility and the truth is undermined.