Is wine cool?
Most whites, roses and bubblies are…
Sarcasm…it was my first language.
In all seriousness though, this seems to be a topic not so clearly defined. It seems the singular quality that defines whether something is cool, hip, trendy, totally rad, groovy, or the cat’s meow is if the youth that also identify with those social tags support it. In the case of wine, I wouldn’t say that it’s currently trending, but it most certainly will be if the interest continues to climb. Now, more so than ever, the Gen Xers and Millennials are showing increasing interest in wine. The intriguing bit is the types of wine they show interest in, the ways they find the wines and the typically nonchalant lack of desire to adhere to tradition for tradition’s sake.
The “new” wine aficionado is interested in the unique. They seem to gravitate to wines with a story, artistic labels and grapes a bit outside the pale. Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Garnacha, Mourvedre, Verdejo, Gruner Veltliner, Aglianico, Alicante Bouschet, Corvina, Fiano, Falanghina and Kerner are being hunted down, much to the pleasure of wine professionals who have been longing for a market for these and other lesser known grapes. While not all of these neophyte oenophiles are bucking the Cabernet Sauvignon trend, they certainly seem to be looking outside of large, well known brands from Napa. Oftentimes, they look very far indeed.
New fans of the juice of the vine are also finding, sharing and chatting about wine using methods unavailable to previous generations. Chat rooms, blogs, social media and forums have made the wine world more accessible than ever. Researching wines, grapes, flavor profiles and even pairings are now but a few clicks away on their smartphone. Often, you can see these cool, hunters of distinction stalking aisles while tapping away on phones or tablets or scanning interactive barcodes in search of prey. They are the hunter-gatherers of the new and different. They scoff at the large, easy to find mammoth labels and displays, instead tracking the elusive, small production winemaker. For this alone, they deserve respect.
At the sake of sounding contradictory, I would urge these young wine lovers to be cautious in deviating completely from tradition, however. There exist labels, regions and grape varieties, that while traditionally popular, were just so for a reason. To push Bordeaux aside in its entirety, for example, is a mistake. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon personally on many occasions. Belonging to one of the previously mentioned generations, I understand the appeal of dismissing that which has been lauded a great deal by those that have come before me. I’m guilty of having acted similarly in the past. I have also learned what a mistake that can be when concerning wine. Yes, Bordeaux tends to be stodgy, old fashioned and uniquely uninteresting from a marketing standpoint. Then there is the air of snobbery to contend with. These obstacles aside, Bordeaux remains the home of some of the elite wines on the planet. There is more competition at this level than ever before, but nothing tastes like truly great Bordeaux and this is merely one example.
So, the younger, hip and trendy wine crowd has definitely taken some adventurous, exploratory first steps toward experience, exposure and inevitably, evolution. For this they should, with all respect and sincerity, be commended. They are identifying with the unique, perfectly illustrating the defining characteristic of their generation. Along the way, they shall certainly stumble, but learn a lesson with each step afterward. Along that road, I am confident they shall continue to make wine cool…most likely, in the fridge.