Now, according to the 2019 incarnation of the SVB analysis, the US wine industry might be too late; or, at least, too late to avoid negative impacts to fine wine sales now that most of the millennial generation are old enough to legally drink, and making just enough money to spend some of it on drinking.
Congrats, folks! You officially stuck your head so far into your butts that, if you squint through your belly-button hole, you’ll be able to see that you blew your chance at capturing the hearts (and dollars) of the next generation of drinkers! Go, you!…
One of the best responses to my rant came via another blog (and yeah, I realize that bu writing about someone writing about me writing about wine is several orders of magnitude of meta), Dwight Furrow’s Edible Arts. Dwight is a PhD (Philosophy) and WSET Advanced and CSW, so I’m going to make the (extremely safe) assumption that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to stringing words together regarding how we as humans conceptualize our discourse on wine.
Dwight’s entire response is worth a read (and so it’s embedded below), but I wanted to highlight two quotes in particular:
“We have a disturbing tendency in the U.S. of thinking that the only people who are competent and motivated to do X are people who are paid to do X. Writing and the arts are perhaps the best example of an activity where this assumption doesn’t hold.”
I love this response for several reasons, primarily because Dwight hits on what has made user-generated content such a potent force in today’s marketplace (and in modern discourse, in general). What I love most about it, however, is that it equates amateur content about wine with amateur content about everything since ever. That’s an important reminder, because we tend to forget that amateur content can be excellent, despite the fact that this has been true for a few hundred years. We are distracted by the fact that we can find both the lousy and the excellent amateur wine writing with equal amount of ease in our online world, and so we draw the incorrect conclusion that somehow there is more crap created these days relative to excellence than there has been in the past.
I still find the future of professional wine writing – in terms of making a living at it – very dark, indeed. But Dwight has rekindled a bit of hope in me that wine content in general is likely to remain strong for a good long time.
I love me some Tom Wark, but I am in a state of some disagreement with the Wark Communications conclusions from the survey; specifically, this tidbit:
If wine continues to grow in popularity, if the now fully adult Millennial generation is as committed to the beverage as they seem, and barring any economic catastrophes, I’m confident that the wine writing project will continue full speed ahead. More new voices are coming. More new publishing exercises meant to meet the needs of new generations will arrive. Even new ways of understanding and communicating about wine are likely to appear.
While it’s of course true that more new voices are coming, the Millennials are devoted to the beverage, and that new ways of understanding and communicating about wine will appear, I have severe doubts as to the viability of the “wine writing project” in the future. Why? Well, that same survey serves up some very compelling reasons in some of the take-away commentary on the aggregated survey responses…
I don’t mean matter in that classy way to get trashed way, though given the state of world affairs and divisive US politics these days, I’d be one of the last people to begrudge you that kind of temporary salve.
What I mean is, do you still get the same thrill out of wine that you did when first discovering a great unsung producer, or a killer bargain, or a fortunate run-in with one of the unicorns?
I ask this not because I’ve personally lost that fire (as proof, I submit every article written on these virtual pages over there last two years), but because it’s tough to ascertain if normal people care anymore.
There are a shit ton of terrible things happening in the world as I write this. And while we’re unquestionably richer, safer, and just plain better off as a whole compared with, say, forty years ago (just take a look at any statistical measure in developments such as infant mortality rate as captured by the United Nations), the trend towards normalizing rampant nationalism globally has got to have any rational person more than a little concerned these days. If you engage in behavior that we wouldn’t tolerate from six year old kids – denigrating people, wasting money, isolating your friends, and abdicating personal responsibilities – the best you can do on America is… become President? And don’t get me started on the “post-fact era” of media consumption (a term that utterly loathe, as if facts were ever candidates for exclusion as a matter of normal adult behavior).
We’re kind of through the looking glass at this point, aren’t we?
In this environment, it’s a bit tough to justify writing about fermented grape juice.
The kicker is that I’ve got reams of material to share – I’ve yet to write up travels to Israel, Idaho, the Rhone, Romagna, a new Sonoma cult wine release with historical ties to previous coverage here on 1WD, and very likely Asti (since I’m in route there as I pen this very opinion piece). And I’m excited about all of them… That is, until I make the mistake of catching the news.
I’m not going to stop, of course. But I’m reflective by nature, and I can’t help but take some pause and think, “does this stuff really matter?” – knowing full well that it never stopped mattering to those in the wine biz, that the product has a history much longer than our current political woes, that there are vines (and some wines) that will outlive everyone reading these words, that just maybe because of all of that, wine actually matters more now than ever before.
So… are you still as excited about vino as I am? Because I think that I could really use a drink right now…
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