Elin McCoy

‘What is fine wine, any­way, and what will it be in the fu­ture?’

Decanter - - CONTENT -

On a hOt morn­ing in early July, I was deep in dis­cus­sion at the Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines (FM4FW) an­nual think tank on ways small fam­ily winer­ies can ac­cess the cap­i­tal they need to sur­vive in the 21st cen­tury. the event was hosted by aR Leno­ble Cham­pagne house and drew to­gether 60 par­tic­i­pants – wine trade fig­ures, jour­nal­ists and the kind of trendy ex­perts who give tED talks on fi­nance, tech and geopol­i­tics – to try and map fine wine’s fu­ture in a fast-chang­ing world.

the week­end’s con­ver­sa­tions raised a host of ques­tions, start­ing with: ‘What is fine wine any­way, and what will it be in the fu­ture?’ Based on the ge­o­graph­i­cal spread of wines that par­tic­i­pants brought to rep­re­sent their ideas of fine wine, the def­i­ni­tion al­ready in­cludes more di­ver­sity than it used to.

But the dive into top­ics be­yond what’s in the glass re­minded me how im­por­tant it is to step back and con­tem­plate the re­la­tion­ship of wine to the zeit­geist.

Free­wheel­ing morn­ing round­tables of­fered brain­storm­ing ses­sions on every­thing from a new def­i­ni­tion of lux­ury (iden­ti­fied as ‘what money can’t buy’) to the power of In­sta­gram to cap­ture wine mem­o­ries, to crowd-fund­ing as a way for winer­ies not just to get cash, but also cap­ture their cus­tomers’ loy­alty.

I mod­er­ated an af­ter­noon panel with tech in­vestors and en­trepreneurs on ways that new tech­nolo­gies could change ev­ery as­pect of how wine is made, sold, dis­cussed and drunk. Ro­bots in the vine­yard, block chain tech­nol­ogy to pre­vent fraud, the use of sen­sory soft­ware to tar­get in­di­vid­ual palates, vir­tual re­al­ity tast­ings: there’s an aw­ful lot ar­riv­ing soon that non-techie wine lovers are barely aware of.

think tanks on wine’s fu­ture have pro­lif­er­ated in the past 10 years. the first one I at­tended was Wine Fu­ture 2009 in Rioja. I’ve since spo­ken at and at­tended many such events, which of­ten seem to be about get­ting more peo­ple in more coun­tries to buy wine, and how to make your brand stand out in a crowded mar­ket. hap­pily, FM4FW, founded by the savvy own­ers of Chêne Bleu wine es­tate in the south­ern Rhône, ni­cole and Xavier Ro­let (former head of the Lon­don Stock Ex­change) went wider and deeper.

the is­sue of cli­mate change was dis­cussed in the con­text of a panel com­par­ing chal­lenges in the en­ergy in­dus­try with those in wine. Miguel tor­res (who also spoke at Wine Fu­ture 2009) is still ur­gently point­ing out that ev­ery win­ery could – and ab­so­lutely must – do much more to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment in the face of global warm­ing. he’s long been show­ing the way through his win­ery’s ad­mirable ex­am­ple.

Surely there is no more im­por­tant is­sue for the fu­ture of wine right now than tack­ling cli­mate change, some­thing brought home to us all this sum­mer by soar­ing tem­per­a­tures and mas­sive wild­fires in wine re­gions around the planet. alas, FM4FW didn’t delve into how to en­cour­age drinkers to con­sider a win­ery’s stance on the en­vi­ron­ment in what they ex­pect from a fine wine.

But the panel that most in­trigued me was about fine wine and a more in­clu­sive so­ci­ety. the term reg­u­larly evokes elitism based on class, gen­der, wealth and so­phis­ti­ca­tion. Can it be­come more in­clu­sive?

Panel mem­ber Dr Bev­er­ley Skeggs, a pro­fes­sor at the Lon­don School of Eco­nomics, stud­ies how inequal­ity func­tions in ev­ery­day ex­pe­ri­ences in dif­fer­ent parts of the world. She ex­plained that in the US, fine wine is de­fined by price; in France the dis­tinc­tion is one of cul­ture and taste. But when she queried fel­low schol­ars on what fine wine meant to them, their an­swer was ‘fine wine is white­ness’ and they talked about it as part of colo­nial­ism. how to counter that? One way is to en­cour­age more pro­duc­ers who aren’t white.

Over two packed days, it seemed FM4FW delved into just about ev­ery im­por­tant wine is­sue. Only later did I re­alise how lit­tle we’d tack­led one of the wine world’s unglam­orous re­al­i­ties, that the peo­ple who tend the vine­yards in those spe­cial land­scapes and those who drag hoses around in cel­lars are largely ig­nored as part of the fine wine pic­ture. But fine wine couldn’t ex­ist with­out them.

Elin McCoy is an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and au­thor who writes for Bloomberg News

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.