Making wine sexy
Any article with the headline Time to sex up wine is going to get my attention!
That’s how Lewis Perdue’s Wine Industry Insight Daily News Fetch put it last week, in reporting on an article in Harpers’ on a Spanish M.W., Pancho Campo, who told a Hong Kong [where else?] audience that “wine’s image should be ‘simple and sexy’.”
Here are some of the money quotes from Señor Campo’s speech: “The biggest problem of the next generation is that we are losing millennial consumers [aged between 18 and 25]…Too often young people prefer to drink beer or spirits because they think that wine is too expensive and snobby.” These hot-blooded young things “want their first experience of wine [to be] exciting and sexy.”
Well, who doesn’t? I suppose an 18-year old’s first experience with a bottle of sweet Moscato, in the back seat of a car with an ardent love partner, would be exciting and sexy. No wine glasses required, just tippling straight from the noggin so to speak, maybe spilling a little here and there, but hey! you can always lick it up and off…
But I digress!
Seriously, Pablo is just advancing the latest installation of the “wine for dummies” argument, according to which we [writers, critics, snobby sommeliers, bass-ackwards merchants and winemakers themselves] have made wine hopelessly complicated and snooty for the average young person. In fact, here’s the Harpers’ article’s lead paragraph, by their writer, Helen Arnold, who, I imagine, felt she was paraphrasing what Pablo meant to say:
“Besuited fat old men with black teeth droning on about malolactic fermentation is the last thing the wine industry needs if it wants to educate and attract younger consumers.”
Wow. Is she referencing me? I do talk about malolactic fermentation, I’m afraid (although I don’t believe I drone on), and I suppose I am considered “old” in relation to the Millennials. But I emphatically reject the notion that I am “besuited”!!! Ms. Arnold, I do not even own a suit! Hell, there’s only four or five days a year when I deign to put on a sport jacket. And “black teeth”? Mine aren’t, thank you, although I have often seen purple-stained teeth, especially after a Petite Sirah tasting.
And I am not fat. But I concede Ms. Arnold’s point that many years in the wine and food writing biz can pack on the pounds! Which is why I hit the gym everyday, about the only advice I would give to novice wine writers.
I sometimes sigh when I see this anti-intellectual streak that runs through wine writing like a vein of sludge in Alberta shale. Even Joe Roberts, at 1WineDude, taps into it, in his header: Serious Wine Talk for the not so serious drinker. Joe, at least, tries to have it both ways: he wants to play at the level of the professional critic, yet at the same time reassure his readers that he will dumb his knowledge down, lest he wade into swamps of malolactic miasma and drag them along with him. (Don’t get me wrong, I know what Joe’s trying to do, and I respect it. I just am predicting his shtick will change and get more “knowledge-y,” the older he gets.)
I know a lot of 18-25 year olds, and while I’m sure they think about sex a lot, it’s an insult to suggest that’s all they care about. They have pre-frontal lobes, too, and are concerned with knowledge, wisdom, spirituality and all sorts of other good things. They want to learn more about wine (assuming they like it to begin with), and they don’t want to be pandered to, the way beer and spirits (especially cognac) manufacturers do, by throwing the possibility of sex in their faces if only they’d buy the right booze. Far from finding a “simple and sexy” message for young people, wine should show them that a better, more meaningful life awaits when they graduate from chug-a-lug to the true intelligent appreciation of the world’s oldest and finest beverage.