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Putting wine into a greater context



When educators talk about wine at the kinds of consumer events I’m doing this week at Karisma Resort, it seems to me that more than just the hedonistic and technical aspects of the wines should be discussed.

I mean, wine is more than just “cherries” or “limes” and bright acidity or steak-worthy tannins and an AVA. Yes, those kinds of things—its flavors and textures, it’s varietal mix, its appellation—are important, and consumers want and need to know about them. After all, the reason why folks pay to go to these sorts of events is because they’re hungry for more knowledge about wine (and bless them for that!).

But there’s so much more to wine. For example, it’s important for people who are tasting wines from the company I work for, Jackson Family Wines, to understand things like the Jacksons’ commitment to sustainability. It’s one thing to talk about (for instance) Stonestreet Christopher’s Cabernet Sauvignon, but that wine needs to be put into the context of the fact that Jess loved that mountain so much, he’s buried there, his wife, Barbara, lives there, and “Christopher” is the name of their only son. It helps consumers to know about (and I think it’s terribly interesting in itself) how Jess left corridors of pathways open throughout the vastness of the Alexander Mountain Estate, to let the critters who have lived there forever—cougars, bears, deer, wild boars and so on—prowl. These things may not have anything to do with the wine’s flavors, or how it ages, or the way it pairs with steak. But in a funny way, they do. It places the wine into a greater context, one you can call “intellectual” and “emotional” rather than (merely) hedonistic; and it’s in the brain—the seat of intellect and emotions—that wine’s greatest appeal lives.

This putting-wine-into-greater-contexts presents more of a challenge to educators. They have to do more research than to just read a tech sheet and regurgitate it to whatever audience they’re addressing—which is something I’ve seen far too much of (and something I admit to being occasionally guilty of myself). But, after all, in this day-and-age of “the story,” when we’re told that every wine needs something to distinguish itself from every other wine, it does behoove us educators to go beyond the routine and really find out what makes that wine that wine. Especially when the story connected to it is compelling.

Back tomorrow, reporting from this delightful part of the Maya Riviera.

  1. No comments late in the day? OK, I’ll add one: Most simply, yeah, I agree completely, and appreciate the remarks. In particular, we al keep seeing the survey results that today’s younger wine drinkers want more embedded social consciousness in their wines. (I don’t know when old boomers like me stopped showing up under “social conscience” in the surveys, but that’s another story.)

    And people love stories! That’s one more thing that brings vibrancy to the wine experience. I think it touches something primal and passionate. When presenting our Boisset Collection wines, we never tire of telling Baron Haraszthy stories, and they always light people up. Or the legends of Buena Vista’s history, or the sustainability of all our wineries, many fully organic (that lights them up, too). It’s a spiel, of course, but it also honestly engages. That’s what wine does best: It engages the mind and senses equally, its history fires imagination, its context connects us more widely to each other.

    That’s always a good thing. Right now, maybe we need it more than ever. So keep up the stories as we all drink around the camp fire.

  2. Re: today’s younger wine drinkers.

    “Gallo Survey Finds That Today’s Wine Drinkers Are Diverse with an Appreciation of New Offerings for More Occasions”


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