I have taken to avoiding use of the term “natural wine.” This has nothing to do with wines largely considered to be natural wines, some of which have beguiled me (though most too often are a disappointing combination of everything I don’t want in a wine married with a distinct lack of what I do want in a wine), and everything to do with the fact that I have to type things like “largely considered to be natural wines” every time that I bring up the topic.
This is because, despite now having garnered more mainstream publicity and hipster cachet than at any previous point in recent memory, natural wine producers, purveyors, and proponents have yet to define what in the f*ck a “natural wine” actually is.
Somehow, despite having a marketing designation that implies tanker-loads of douchebaggy superiority, natural wine has managed to get a foothold into the door to a wider fine wine audience, but its serious lack of definition is feeling like the dog caught the car and now has no idea what to do with it….
Robert M. Parker, Jr. – arguably the world’s most famous, but unarguably its most influential, wine critic – is hangin’ up the spurs.
Last week, The Wine Advocate announced that Parker, who had steadily been down-shifting his wine review duties over the better course of a decade, is retiring from the publication.
What’s poised to change in the wine world? Probably next to nothing; the days when the words of a lone critic such as Parker directed huge swings of the wine-buying needle for industry buyers and consumers alike are increasingly far behind us, a type of influence that has been on the wane for, well, the better course of the same decade in which Parker down-shifted his wine-reviewing beat.
Namely, that the days of wine brands coasting their lazy asses on the basis of past performance, and consumers being forced to suck up junk-ass wines as a result, are largely a thing of the past, and that is in no small part due to the work ethic of one Robert M. Parker, Jr. In other words, like him or hate him, love points or gag at the sight of them, Parker’s influence in the wine world writ large is and will always be net positive…
The part that was most surprising was that the show’s theme centered around the Op-Ed-style piece I penned in mid-February, in which I posited that the wine industry as a whole has fumbled the ball when it comes to attracting the Millennial generation, as evidenced by multiple reports showing that wine in the USA is hemorrhaging those younger consumers and now needs desperately to staunch the bleeding, having failed at the preventive medicine part of hopping generational buying habits. It’s not all gloom-and-doom, of course; the wine biz is very good at some forms of consumer engagement, but I maintain that those forms work best with an older crowd.
Our discussion morphed from whether or not wine is losing the battle for younger drinkers, into both broader (wine biz writ-large) and more focused (impacts on the NY FLX wine scene) conversations, and now my minor dream of trying to sound intelligent during one of those super-cool, dignified NPR discussions has finally been realized. You can listen to that show here, or via the embed below (and then make fun of me in the comments). Make sure that you have NPR coffee mug in hand first (but you can, of course, fill it with wine… I’m not gonna judge…).
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!…
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