One of the things that can either get someone excited about something or turn them off completely is how it is talked about. This goes beyond wine and cocktails. This thought goes throughout life. If you speak of things with enthusiasm and excitement, then others are more likely to listen. That being said, the words used are pretty important too.
As I have said before, and will continue to say, the way wine professionals talk about wine needs to change. Wine needs to be shown as something that can be approachable, not unreachable. But, don’t take it from me; let’s examine some of the terms used to talk about cocktails and wine and how they might effect someone either just getting into or seeking to understand wine and cocktails more deeply.
When talking about cocktails, many people use cool, even sometimes even crass terms and words to describe them. You are more likely to hear people refer to a cocktail as “bad ass”, “awesome”, “poundable” and other terms. This is not to say that you won’t also hear things like “balanced”, “complex”, or “interesting”. But, when is the last time you heard something like “this cocktail is great, but it needs to breath for about 20 minutes”? Never. People enjoy cocktails as they are presented. Sometimes, the bartender doesn’t quite get it right, or people will put ice into a glass of whiskey that makes the bartender shudder. However, those personal preferences can be influenced by cool, intelligent, and even witty conversation. Talking about cocktails can often be, for lack of a better word, fun.
Now, lets think about how people talk about wine. Words are often used that, sometimes, make absolutely no sense to some people. “Tannins”, “terrior”, “minerality” and “structure” are only some of the words that can be used to describe wine, not to mention all of the crazy flavor descriptors. I am not going to say that these words are bad or incorrect, as all of those things are part of what makes wine what it is. However, what do some of those words mean for the new or amateur wine drinker? What does “lemon pith” mean to someone who is more likely to eat fried foods than concentrate on what different parts of a lemon taste like? All of these things add up to one word: unapproachable.
In the age of social media, it is almost impossible to get someone’s attention. How do you describe something so intricate as a well made cocktail, whose history is vast and influential, or a wine, whose sense of place and intricate techniques can change everything about the wine, in 150 words or less? How do you break down things that are so complex and make them simple? That is a struggle that we all go through as beverage professionals and one that will continue, but also one that needs to be examined if we hope to continue to develop educated and interested consumers, particularly in the case of wine.
An approachable means of communication…maybe this is the answer? Or maybe, that’s too simple. Tune back in for part 3 for another idea that just might have the answer. Until then, keep exploring and, as always, enjoy drinking delicious things.