Recently, I conducted a session, which was aimed at the writers and scribblers of our times. Not my times, but more current, contemporary times. This new lot starts much younger, has a much crisper idea of what it wishes to cover and how to approach it. It all went well, but I’ll be the first to admit that nothing unsettles me more than the confidence that the youth exude nowadays. It’s a good thing really. I just hate that I wasn’t so dead-shot sure when I was their age. I guess all that humility, which was instilled in me, somewhere served to sedate my questioning nature. We accepted, while the millennial generation thrives on questioning and reinventing. Come to think of it, I would have fit in just fine.
Before I digress any further, the reason I bring up this instance is because even as I provided them insight into the way wine works (as in, how it’s made, not how our authoritative and didactic regime of taxes and levies tries to thwart any joy that fermented grape juice may be providing), I got an insight into how the mind of the current generation works and, consequently, what will the wine world need to do to keep up with the consumer of tomorrow. Palates evolve, preferences change. Don’t write it off as just a trend because the last time we shifted our tactile profiles, that ‘trend’ lasted for two millenniums and is still going on…
Without further ado, here are a few things I picked up along the way—pardon me if some of this sounds ‘obvious’:
The new generation absorbs a lot more data than I ever did. The trouble is with so much data out there, and a lot of it pure garbage—think memes—the nature of information is changing. It’s more variable than ever before, fleeting rather than something to be retained. Consequently, they bind with all this data differently, showing a lot less emotional attachment to it. This ephemeral nature of awareness basically means that the need to share in-depth is redundant. They want to know, but no more than what they can recall instantaneously, stuff that will make them sound intelligent, not nerdy or geeky. Those who wish to delve into the depths of the subject will always have old-school resources to fall back on, but for most parts, information, like a prickly sparkler, must be kept light and fizzy.
Tastes are evolving too. Today, the preference is for drier styles. Sweetness isn’t abhorred, but it does have a certain negative connotation, one conveying an inferior-quality product, or one meant for the amateur or debutante. This generation may be young, but it’s tired of being reminded of this ever so often—I, too, am guilty here somewhat—so anything that is not pro-level is to be scoffed at.
Labelling: A book may not be judged by its cover, but it shall certainly not make it to an Insta-post if it isn’t catchy or quirky. Catchy doesn’t mean silly or shallow. As long as it shows distinction and definition, it shall be liked, and shall receive likes.
Cork vs screw cap: This is the best bit perhaps—the cork or cap conundrum is finally getting sorted and it’s tipping in the favour of ‘Frankly, don’t care’. As long as it holds the wine intact and is easy to open, it works. Screw caps do have the natural advantage, what with everyone having had enough practise with them versus a cork, which presents a whole new set of complications.
Finally, to round up to five, price is a big determinant for enjoyment. So expensive wines will have to jostle for recognition no matter their lineage or pedigree. Simple rosé is making a comeback, Prosecco is the new star, New World is far outselling the Old World—all signs that the established hierarchy is also up for questioning and redistributing. Nepotism in the stodgy Wine Lovers’ Club is no longer tolerated and has to make way for a more democratic form of enjoyment. The new hopes of the wine world may not come from Terroir and legacy, but from an ability to connect with and complement the lifestyles of upcoming oenophiles.
The writer is a sommelier