As I pull up a lot of blogs, websites, magazines, and others forms of media, I see more and more stories and opinions about cocktails. It seems that people are becoming more and more infatuated with cocktails, who makes them, and the history behind them. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that people are making an effort to become more educated drinkers, more curious about the history behind them and why we drink. However, with the pendulum swinging so far in the direction of cocktails (and sometimes beer…I can’t forget about you beer drinkers), it leaves those of us who have made wine a career to wonder if we are being left behind. It seems that people find wine uninteresting for any number of reasons. This series of entries will explore what some of those reasons may be. I don’t aim to present absolute answers for this feeling or question, but rather present the things that may be standing in the way of wine being seen with the same enthusiasm and interest that cocktails seem to be right now.
One of the first things that came to mind for this article is the idea that cocktails seem to be more creative than wine. Now, let me say this up front before I cause some uproar from this thought: cocktails ARE creative. I would never say that they are anything but, and that is one of the reasons that I myself have enjoyed being a beverage and cocktail director in restaurants. So, yes, they are certainly creative. However, I think that the part of the allure of the creativity of cocktails is that, many times, it is immediate and tangible.
Most places create cocktails at that moment, in front of the consumer. The performance is how they are prepared (shaken, stirred, with flair, lit on fire, and any number of other preparations that exist). The creativity is something that can be seen and experienced in other terms other than simply drinking the cocktail. There is a story behind the cocktail, but many times the story is part of the overall performance. The creation and preparation is part of the story that the drinker can then walk away with and tell to their friends.
Compare that creativity with the creativity that is involved with wine. Most times, that creativity is done far away from the consumer, by scientist and wine makers who dissect every step of the wine making process. The creativity is done inside barrels and caves that many people will never see in person. Every step of the wine making process can dictate what the final product will be like. However, most of the time, none of that is ever seen until you pop the cork and pour it into the glass. Even then, unless it is tasted against other wines of similar variety, that creativity is never realized. It takes someone who knows the wine well to be able to communicate that creativity and history behind the finished product to the consumer. However, there involves the last point of this creativity argument: the people who bring the product to you.
Through a quick and simple google search, I wanted to compare the images of those people who are responsible for explaining the story and history of the product they are serving. In fairness, I chose the most high brow titles for each that I could think of: mixologist and sommelier. Look below and compare the results…
These images are only an example of many of the photos available on google for those two words. However, they paint a very interesting picture. The mixologist seem younger, more hip, approachable, and active. The sommeliers are typically older, unapproachable, and rather pompous, not to mention, all men. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know some female sommeliers, but the majority are men. In fact, there are less than 30 female master sommeliers in the country out of the almost 200 that exist. That is a lowly 15%. That raises the question, are sommeliers unapproachable to most. And there is where the creativity argument gets interesting. Who is making the drinks and pouring the wine is almost as important as what is being made and poured itself. If it is done with pomp and circumstance, then why would people come back or want to learn more? Most people have a low tolerance for arrogance and it shows in what they drink and where they go.
So, creativity and presentation…could this be the answer to wines woes? Wait for part two and we will continue the conversation. Until then, enjoy drinking something delicious!