Are We the Problem?

I saw a post recently from Jamie Goode (respected scientist, author, wine judge and all around great fella) where he shared a recent tasting experience with some non-wine friends and it made me re-evaluate some feedback I had recently received after bringing a date to a dinner with some wine friends. We drank, ate, told tall tales and had a wonderful time, as we are known to do. On the way home in a cab (safety first my friends) I recall asking how he enjoyed himself…and was met with an enthusiastic affirmation that my friends are great fun, followed shortly thereafter by a request to not be included the next time. This was not a wine dinner or a trade event, but a social gathering where I was introducing my partner for the first time. Yeouch!
Wine people are some of the most generous on the planet. We open our arms, homes, cellars, to anyone who looks even remotely thirsty, and will happily sit and chat until the wee hours of the morning. Wine is an easy way to turn strangers into friends and friends into family. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about this world, but what if you don’t speak the language? We have all travelled to a foreign land and tried to navigate unfamiliar customs while hoping to not offend the locals. I think it’s like that for a lot of people interacting with wine people. They learn a few key phrases, try to use them at the right times, and respond with a look of terror when someone more fluent responds with rapid fire questions. I know we don’t mean to be inhospitable, but many times we make visitors feel as though they need to prove themselves to earn/keep their spot at the table. We are an excitable community who love to share our passion and knowledge. We enjoy the details that make wines, producers, and regions individual and unique. So much so, that there is a full language dedicated to describe what is happening in the vineyard, cellar, glass, and on the palate. We keep things categorized because it makes these ideas easier to study and compare. Wine is inherently complex and describing it in an overly reductive way doesn’t make it easier, but dumbing it down too much makes it seem like we are being condescending. So how do we balance both? We use our words, but in a different way. Perhaps it’s time for a throw back in how we discuss wine. Let’s keep the modern practice of making our tables more inclusive but focus more on the experience to be found in the bottle instead of the long grocery lists of aromatics and flavours with overly specific food suggestions, and deep dives into trellising techniques. Let’s use evocative language à la Hugh Johnson or Harry Waugh, instead of grid approved descriptors. Let’s offer deeper insights when asked (consent is king), and read social cues…..blank stares = stop talking. Let’s be more focused on the enjoyment and less on the dissection….at least in mixed company. If you’re interested in learning the useful parts of wine speak so your future interactions are less painful, I’m here for you and am happy to get you started.
Champagne Wishes,

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