Where is the Big Bang of understanding that sparks a collective “aha!” moment in wine and creates a lasting cultural footprint among the Millennial generation much as that experienced by the Boomers? That “I kissed a wine and I liked it” feeling? That magic carpet ride?
Wine writer Andrew Jeffords describes the existential moment this way, “…we suddenly relish the wine we’re tasting in a more comprehensive manner than we’ve ever been able to do before. We suddenly ‘get it’, often with overwhelming force. We suddenly grasp, in other words, the radical principle of beauty common to all good and great wine, and gasp for a moment at the extent of its appeal. We understand how wine creation might mesh with other cultural activities.”
Entering DEFCON 3
Warning sirens began sounding throughout the U.S. wine industry and (because the U.S. is the world’s largest wine market) throughout the wine-producing world earlier this year with the release of the Silicon Valley Bank State of the Wine Industry Report 2019. The Millennials, now average age 30, are fast developing the cultural habits that will follow them for the rest of their lives, but enjoying a healthful glass of wine isn’t one of them. The Millennial generation is passing up an amazing universe of wine options to chase bro brews, spirits and cocktails with sexy, sensual name references and the new cannabis options.
If we throw around the buzzword “sustainability” will that help? Sustainability is such a marketing ploy these days that one would wonder why it hasn’t been applied to health and wellness choices that the under 40 generation is making in addition to the shoes on their feet or the cricket flour in their snack foods. Fermented grape juice offers a more sustainable healthy lifestyle than beer, spirits and cannabis. Would an angle with more seduction attract new consumers to the wine side? Anthony Bourdain, you left us too soon! We need those who can engage the senses and the imagination as opposed to the ritual recitations of the high priests of vino communicating only with those who have studied the wine world’s equivalent of Ancient Sanskrit.
Several trade tastings in March gave us the opportunity and inspiration to think of wines in terms of something more familiar. Tasting our way through a Bordeaux exhibition, we came upon a wine that immediately made us think, “Wow, a strong hitter and first one up to bat!” That lead us to think of describing wines in terms of the batting order in baseball. Just as a coach wouldn’t slot a power hitter batting first, you wouldn’t want to overwhelm your palate by beginning your dining experience with a powerful red wine. That’s why most meals begin with a white, rosé or sparkling wine.
A restaurant wine list that moves from less power to more power (as we do below) is known as a progressive wine list. Some wine specialists dismiss the usefulness of organizing lists in this manner by claiming it’s too rudimentary and their guests are more sophisticated, but with the tsunami wave of new wine producing regions around the world, it’s a great way to compare wines that consumers may not have had the opportunity to experience. The familiar Bordeaux and Burgundy varietals of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon aren’t the only star players these days.
So, we’ll give a few players in our fantasy league this month by working through the batting order. Where we list things such as oak aging, aging on the lees, or number of cases produced, these metrics in the wine world can be likened to the type of bat a hitter prefers or the number of RBIs in a player’s season. Just as in following your favorite teams or players, finding your favorite varietals, producing regions, winemakers or winestyles is unique to every individual. Does vintage (year of harvest) matter? Well, yes, it can. Growers may have a Cinderella season or a season plagued with injuries. Winemakers may try new strategies or make technical adjustments depending on the fruit. We’re not including pricing as some of the following are on-premise (restaurant) only wines.
If you want a…
~ Dale Blankenship and Cat Sansing