We Need More Bad Religion and Less Green Day in Our Wine
Perhaps I am missing the point or maybe I’m not completely in tune with what’s happening around me, but it seems as though our present social and economic situation is ripe for a counterculture movement of sorts. Though #occupy groups have set up camp across the country, there seems to be little in the way of expression of discontent with our current state of affairs (Tea Party excluded – remember them?). As a student of history, perhaps I am being a little impatient. Musicians, artists and students might already be stoking a fire but I can’t yet see the smoke. However, as a child of the co-opted Gen-X, I take a far more cynical attitude toward are our ability (and desire) to shake up the system these days. Without leaders who actually lead, who will follow? However, not all hope is lost. We do have a secret weapon that we can bring to the masses – interesting wine. Though it might not change the world, wine from relatively unknown producers who call hidden corners of the world home can help shake us free from the reality TV and upscale fast food malaise that has quietly taken hold of our daily lives.
Because these wines often, but not always, stand for something – a sense of place that captures not only distinctive climatic, geological and varietal qualities of a wine, but also speaks with voice that is representative of local tradition and culture. And why should we care about a wine’s typicity that is formed through circumstances unique to its specific sense of place? It’s simple, because we are all buying an increasing amount of branded wine that finds its way onto our tables because they fulfill what we think we need in terms of value, consistency and comfort. And as we continue to imbibe mediocre offerings from general appellations such a ‘California,’ ‘South Eastern Australia’ and ‘Germany,’ we are missing the point on what makes wine so special.
As consumers are being fooled that the big-box attitude towards consumption is the righteous path, some effort is required by keepers of interesting wine to offer them the opportunity to enjoy wines that are a little less ordinary, if for no other reason, saving them from vanilla and coconut laden $9 Zinfandel and Shiraz. We might be living in a meat and potatoes economy for the foreseeable future, but there has been never been a greater chance for casual wine drinkers to enjoy soundly made, distinctive wines at home or in their favorite restaurants. An incredibly amount of soundly and responsibly made wine with character is scattered throughout the market, waiting for consumers to walk past the stacks of wine-water that greet them at the door of their wine shop. And the best part – many of these alternatives to brands aren’t more expensive and offer wine drinkers the ability to sip on something interesting.
Maybe I am a little naïve in thinking that retailers and restaurants care more about giving wine drinker’s the opportunity to try more interesting selections than the bottom line, but the best shops and wine lists carry wines which capture a sense of place that offer consumers more responsibly made wines and also the opportunity to tune in to something special in their glass. Consumers need more Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Bad Religion and less Green Day and Justin Bieber in their wine. A little more grit and personality prove to be more satisfying polish and overproduction any day.
As I alluded to before, I think that we are ripe for another substance over style punk movement. How much longer can we consume plaid everything? Sadly, music probably won’t save us this time around and wine probably won’t either. However, as wine professionals that are constantly exposed to exciting, and at times, inspiring wines, we have a responsibility to share less ordinary wine with our family, friends, customers and dining room guests. In doing so, perhaps it will enable them to see not only wine, but the world a little differently.