Seven months ago, when I set out to create this blog, one of my goals was to write about wine in a way that spoke to people my own age. So many of my friends or acquaintences were self-professed “foodies”. They watched Top Chef religiously, they went to the newest restaurants and ate food that was seasonal and reveled in identifying esoteric ingredients and obscure cooking techniques. They drank craft beer and frequented bars helmed not by bartenders but mixologists and paid $14 dollars for artisanal cocktails. They were the first brave and eager patrons of the food trucks that spawned an army of restaurants-on-wheels doling out gourmet-fusion fare.
With this proclivity for the obscure and complicated, how hard would it be, I thought, to make the leap from molecular gastronomy and the like to wine? The answer, seven months later, is that wine is still a no-mans-land for most of the people described above. In the last few weeks I’ve been asked more than a few times why, exactly, it was, I thought, that young people still hadn’t “discovered” wine in the same way that they’d “discovered” food? In short, the question they were asking was, “Why am I the only 20-something they know who is a wine geek?”
Well, I have some theories.
Wine is at odds with the cultural phenomenon of hipsterism
As someone recently mentioned to me, if you’re in your 20’s its almost impossible to defend or define yourself as “not a hipster” to anyone in our parents’ age group. The term is so loose and so vague precisely because there is such a vast array of “types” of hipsters within the broader category. However, no matter if you’re of the vegan-hippie variety or the salvage-obsessed (of obscure cultural moments or otherwise), there is something about hipsterism that promotes an attitude of prolonged adolescence and eschews anything that might be too serious.
Previous generations were anxious to grow up, get out of their parents’ houses, get jobs, and find success. We are generally a group that is too busy reveling in the anxiety of “feeling lost” and indulging our desire to “find ourselves”. Our parents, not wanting us to end up as “unhappy” as they are, have allowed us and often encouraged us to pursue this alternative course in the hopes that we may end up “happier” if we can avoid becoming grown-ups as quickly as they did.
Wine, despite all efforts by winemakers and marketers, hasn’t been able to shed its association with the realm of the grown-up. Fine dining transcended the boundary between these two worlds by humbling itself in the form of upscale comfort food and by employing “artisanal” products that were made by the “little guys” who shunned the conventional model and were, thus, embraced by hipsterist culture.
Wine doesn’t get you drunk fast enough
Alright, maybe you’re not a hipster. No matter, if you’re around my age, no matter what you consider yourself, if you went to college, you probably did a lot of drinking. I mean a lot. Like, scary a lot. Most of the people I know who are my age and even older, have carried their college-drinking habbits into adulthood with them. True, most of them aren’t getting blackout every night, but there’s a good chance that when they are going out, they’re heading out with the intention of having a debaucherous night of wreckless abandon. Often, the goal is blackout and if it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t a good night.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m no teetotaler. When the mood strikes I’m usually the first one to suggest tequila shots – the bad kind, too, thrown back with a lick of salt and a desperate suck of lime. But most of the time I’d rather have a few drinks with friends and be a functioning human the next morning rather than spend an entire day in bed with a headache, stomachache, and only a faint will to live.
However, even those who have graduated from the habbit of destroying themselves every weekend, are not drinking wine. No, they’re drinking those fancy cocktails I mentioned earlier. Sure, they are expensive, but they’re truly delicious and they can still get you drunk relatively quickly. They have alcohol in them that they’re familiar with – these kids don’t have a clue what Barbera or Gewurtztraminer is, but they know the difference between Rye and Bourbon.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that wine just doesn’t have the allure of being a get-drunk-quick-fix. Wine is for dinner parties and long conversation – its for sipping not gulping. Until the culture that surrounds drinking changes, wine won’t ever have the same allure as even the most hoity-toity of cocktails or spirits.
Nobody believes that cheap wine can be good wine
Wine is still largely viewed as something that’s too expensive. Forget trying to explain that one bottle of wine at even, say, $30 a bottle (at four large-ish glasses to a bottle) is still cheaper or about the same price as buying four gin-and-tonics at your average NYC bar.
And as far as cheap wine goes – you’re talking about an age group that came of age at the same time as Two-Buck-Chuck. In other words, standards aren’t very high and it’s hard to convince someone that you can actually get decent wine at $10 or $11/bottle if you do just a little bit of homework.
Along that same line of thought, because the only wine that they have tasted is the super-cheap variety, a lot of people around my age have just resigned themselves to the idea that they don’t really like wine very much anyways.
The local movement didn’t help, either
If you’re not in California, Washington, or Oregon, its going to be pretty hard to find a great bottle of wine that can be considered “local”. Pretty much anywhere else, however, and New York included, you can probably find locally-made spirits or beer. In New York, at least, it’s much cooler to buy a bottle of small-batch gin that was distilled in Brooklyn by a small operation than to buy a bottle of wine made by a tiny biodynamic winery somewhere in the Languedoc.
So that’s it, folks. That’s all I got. If you have got a better idea, I’d love to hear it. Next up might be the story of how, exactly, I “got into wine” – another question that has been popping up with more and more frequency. I also have some great posts coming up – including one all about cooking with/and wine. So stay tuned!