It’s true that technology has helped boost the quality of beverages overall, but it has also stifled individuality .
I generally avoid watching television, especially channels aimed at the masses to generate unprecedented TRPs. Call me an elitist, but I find the programming crude, crass, slapstick and utterly nonsensical to harvest anything of any value from it—save for a headache and a lasting disgust for fellow earthlings. Western shows are better, but barring a few, most manage to stimulate the intelligent mind as much as the Lok Sabha channel.
Call it the burden of being smarter than average, but what passes for entertainment is nothing but a reflection of the general prevailing intelligence for a given era. And judging by the overall deterioration of the quality of common reading material and language, it is safe to assume that, as we advance, humans, as a species, are getting dumber by the day. The more progress we make as a race, the more we seem to lose by way of common intelligence. Go figure.
This extrapolates to the field of beverages as well. And sadly, holds equal relevance. Our drinks used to be complex. They were tough to make and it took time to learn to appreciate them. Today, we want our drinks to be smooth and edge-less, tame and generic. Let’s take a few examples. Our forefathers created pale ale. Today, lager is the most common form of beer. No prizes for guessing which is the simpler style of brew. They had gin, we prefer the blander vodka.
Aged spirits are a dying breed today—more people talk about single malt than they truly understand it. As of Cognac and Armagnac, judging by how things are going for them—the region of Cognac now officially produces more vodka than Cognac!—they may not be around for too long. Even cocktails have toned down. Nobody drank their way through the Prohibition armed with a fruity concoction with enough sugar to start a small export business. Oh! Manhattans and martinis, where have you gone?
Then there’s wine. There was a time that wine was hard to make. We didn’t have the weather all sussed and figured like we do now. There were no advanced weather stations and absolutely no way of predicting the sunset next Saturday. Everything was primitive, almost amateurish compared to today, from the harvest to the machinery to make and bottle the wine. And yet, some of the finest wines were made that way—many of which are still around. They commanded a majority market share because that’s what everybody wanted. Today, walk through the endless aisles of a liquor store and you will despondently be greeted by endless rows of similar-looking labels, some smugger than others, all with fairly similar technically flawless wines of standard intensity and body with little edge and differentiating factors. The stuff that is actually worth drinking is horribly expensive and so rare that even when you can afford it, you spend an inordinate amount of time looking for it.
Now, I am not saying no drink today is worth drinking, I could never be so callous when talking about alcohol. What I am trying to highlight is that we are getting lazier. Conveniences of modern life require little of us and we are happiest expending even less. Sadly, we apply this mentality to all sensory experiences as well and rather than unravel a sensation over time, we wish it to auto-impress us. And given the stiff competition, not to mention high mortgage rates, companies are only happy to cater to the client. The era of expressing oneself through your craft and ware is not this one.
While I do concede that technology has helped boost the quality overall, it has somewhere stifled individuality. It’s a trade-off that people like me are grudgingly willing to accept, but one that the majority is unaware of. They sit back and enjoy these very wines and beers, as they tune into the next season of some terrible reality show on primetime.
The writer is a sommelier