Changing the conversation.
When I started my career, my toolkit of wine words didn’t include mineral, oxidised, savoury or umami. Wines also lacked several of the dimensions that are evident in so many today. This meant we didn’t need to talk about skin contact, whole bunch, lees stirring or micro oxygenation, or even terms like textural or terroir. Wine was simpler and so was the language used to describe it. Things have changed. Many wine professionals tend to use language that has been honed by circular conversation with other wine professionals. Often this is where the words can become a deterrent, turning the pleasure of drinking and discovering wine into an experience riddled with anxiety and fear, making the simplest wine choices terrifying. But just as there is more than one kind of wine and drinker, there is also more than one way to talk about wine.
It’s important to note that a chef and a winemaker inherently use the same language. Whether it’s building a dish or making a wine, before they chart the infinite spaces of flavour and aroma, they build a foundation using basic taste and texture.
The sommelier’s role is to take this shared language and translate it for the guest through food and wine on the restaurant floor.
In the same way that restaurants have stripped back fine dining and the gastronomic class system, wine also needs a change in attitude and approach that reflects the way wine drinkers live and the lifestyles they lead.