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Drawing upon the senses leads to good wine memories

Kathryn LaTour


Thinking in pictures and shapes – rather than mere words – will lead to improved consumer sensory memories about wine, said Kathryn LaTour, associate professor of services marketing in the School of Hotel Administration, at the inaugural Women of the Vine symposium, held last month in Napa, California.

“So much of wine education is based on learning a verbal lexicon, and that distances the consumer from the wine experience,” said LaTour, who teaches wine marketing. “Getting in touch with wine’s taste through drawing can lead to a deeper understanding of it.”

The world of wine can be murky. Unlike toothpaste or shaving cream loitering on store shelves, consumers face more than 100,000 labels of wine that differ on branding, varietals and vinification techniques. Complicated words confuse consumers, LaTour said, and she teaches techniques to demystify the wine industry.

At the conference, which strove to enhance female participation in the male-dominated industry, LaTour presented with Gilian Handelman, educational director for Jackson Family Wines. Participants pulled out pencils and paper to map out the perceived shapes of taste or illustrated how wine progresses on your palate. LaTour and Handelman had participants draw the shapes of two white wines – a sauvignon blanc and a chardonnay. The exercise aimed to demonstrate new ways to communicate to consumers today.

The wine industry is evolving, as regulations allow for more flexibility to distribute and maintain relationships with consumers. Social media is helping today’s young consumers become more educated about wine, where trial and variety are encouraged.

LaTour teaches Cornell’s wine marketing class (HADM 4430) on how commercial wine gets to the consumer. She discusses the role of wine tourism, direct sales and wine clubs, legal issues about selling wine and how to navigate the complex distribution systems, vineyard public relations efforts, and how to protect intellectual property.