While clearing up after a recent consumer wine tasting, I was struck by the fact that of the three spit buckets I’d set out, not one contained a drop of wine. I realized I’d forgotten that for most people the idea of spitting out wine borders on sacrilege, and was reminded how fundamentally different the worlds of wine tasting and wine drinking are.
I recently held a short talk for a group of interested but non-expert wine consumers, where I had taken the perhaps foolhardy decision to tackle the thorny issue of wine pricing in our wine market. To give a bit of background for those whose lives do not revolve around the wine trade, the familiar part of the story is that in 2008 the Hong Kong government removed all taxes on wine (imports and consumption, and we don’t have a VAT), creating the modern world’s first completely free market for wine.
The biggest fib in the wine industry: “there is no such thing as good or bad wine, it only matters whether you like it.” It’s a fib not because it’s a false statement, but because the people saying it often don’t quite believe it. Conscious or not, the underlying message of a statement like this is that the person to whom it is being said is clearly too innocent of what good wine actually is for the speaker to be bothered debating the topic with them.
As a non wine-obsessed consumer, one could be forgiven for thinking that the wine industry doesn’t have a lot of compassion for its customers. For example, a question as basic as what the name of a wine actually means has no consistent answer. In some areas of the world (mainly in the so-called old world, aka Europe) wine is named after the place it is from, as in Bordeaux, Burgundy or Barolo. Others (usually from the new world) trade under the name of their principal grape, like Shiraz or Chardonnay.
Before any parents reading this start composing sternly-worded letters objecting to this article’s subject matter, this isn’t an article peddling wine to fifteen year-olds. “Millennial” is a poorly defined demographic, sometimes described as those born post-millennium, but according to our ultimate millennial resource, Google, it is “a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000.”
It’s a rare person in the wine world or any other who can make the statement Bruce Tyrrell makes about Hunter Valley Semillon, which he calls “our gift to the world.” While to some that may sound too close to “God’s gift to the world,” for Bruce it’s simply an honest statement of what it means to carry the torch for a classic wine style that’s deliciously unique, yet doesn’t quite resonate with consumers.