Picture from @shittywinememes
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 think back to some times where I've brought dates to dinners with wine people. 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) I recall asking how they enjoyed themselves...always being met with an enthusiastic affirmation that my friends are great fun, but a less enthusiastic note about how often they were left out of the conversation.
“Wine is inherently complex and describing it in an overly reductive way doesn't make it easier. ”
Don't misunderstand, wine people are some of the most generous on the planet. We open our arms, homes, cellars, to anyone who looks even remotely thirsty. 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 been on vacation without a full grasp of a local language trying to figure out what is going on and 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 a rapid fire paragraph. Our responses aren't meant to put up walls, but many times leave the travellers discouraged and less likely to visit again. Nobody likes to feel like they are in over their heads, especially in a conversation with professionals.
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 mouth. 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. Dumbing it down too much makes it seem like we are being a bit condescending. So how do we attract the curious and keep them engaged? 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. Let's use evocative language à la Hugh Johnson or Harry Waugh, instead of grid approved descriptors. Let's offer a deeper dive when asked, and stop talking when we are met with glazed over eyes. 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. Gather your friends, book a tasting and let's do it the fun way!