U.S. wine consumption surpasses France; Millennials get the credit
Darek Trowbridge, of Old World Winery, wrote about “Libation, A Bitter Alchemy” on his Facebook page. It’s a 2009 book by Deirdre Heekin, described on this website as “a series of linked personal essays [in which] Heekin explores the curious development of her nose and palate [and] her intuitive education and relationship with wine and spirits…”. Darek wrote that he liked “Especially the chapter on Scent and language where she shows that ‘your palate and your vocabulary expand simultaneously [al]though the words and references are really useful only to people who have had the same experiences and thus are part of a shared “community” experience.’”
I haven’t read the book so can’t comment on it. There are several concepts encased in the above paragraph, though, that are worth exploring.
1. the curious development of her nose and palate
One’s “nose and palate” do develop over time, but only if one wants them to. As with any other acquired skill, this takes time, patience and effort.
2. Your palate and your vocabulary expand simultaneously
I never really thought about it that way, but its’s true. The more you talk and write about wine, the more nuanced your palate becomes, which in turn pushes your wine vocabulary to greater heights, and on and on. It’s almost as if you’re creating new areas in the brain related to the understanding of wine and wine-related words. I can’t explain it physiologically, but developing a palate–the discernment of qualities in wine–is directly linked to developing a wine vocabulary.
A “wine vocabulary,” however, isn’t just limited to words describing wine, or even to scientific terms like pH or brettanomyces. If you possess a good wine vocabulary, you are able to talk intelligently about all aspects of wine, including the industry, history and most aspects of terroir.
3. [al]though the words and references are really useful only to people who have had the same experiences
We are tribal animals. This explains why people who are really into wine can’t explain it to people who don’t care about wine. It also explains a lot of the disconnect that sometimes arises between younger bloggers and older writers. We haven’t had the same shared experiences.
4. and thus are part of a shared “community” experience
That disconnect isn’t as large as it used to be, because as the bloggers write and talk more about wine, their palates and vocabulary simultaneously expand (cf. #2). As that happens, their experiences more nearly match the experiences of the older writers (cf. #3), which brings us all into a community, sharing a common experience.
As if to underscore this fact, yesterday Gomberg, Fredrikson released a new finding that, for the first time ever, “the United States just surpassed France in total wine consumption.” They attribute this to “the Millennial generation com[ing] of age, pushing aside their Generation X predecessors, who tended to prefer fancy vodkas and tequilas.” Millennials like their wine. To me, this has implications for the kinds of wine California is going to produce in the future. As the Millennials get more discerning (see #s 1-4, above), their palates will expand. That’s another way of saying they’ll demand quality, as opposed merely to low price. I think it bodes well for wines that are more balanced. One of the things you acquire as you develop a palate is an acute dislike of imbalanced wines, of which California produces too many. Wine after all is a commodity that must give consumers what they demand. Discerning Millennials are demanding better wines and I for one am ready to give credit to the bloggers (and, yes, social media) for leading the charge.