Back to basics
Wine comes with a language and ritualism that has the potential to drive away new and curious drinkers. For the uninitiated, wine can be tough love. It’s not always designed for immediate enjoyment and pleasure. Rarely does anyone enjoy their first wine. It can take time and a little persistence, but when your senses and faculties come to grips with what wine is all about, a whole new world unfolds.
As a sommelier, I have witnessed huge changes in wine over the past 20 years. I have also seen how new and curious drinkers are now coming to wine through the perspective of cooking and dining out. Food can unlock a deeper understanding of wine. Going to restaurants and wine bars has become a new national pastime, and the reality that we can, and will, learn more about wine in the context of food and dining has finally arrived.
Over the past two decades, I’ve seen first-hand how the shifts in the way we eat have changed the way we drink. Think of the fusion cuisine of the ’80s and the subsequent swing to lighter wines, or tapas and Mediterranean in the ’90s and the move to grape varieties that shared the same heritage. Soon after, it was organics and heathy eating, and the ensuing rise of ‘natural’ and organic wines.
With the constant shift in drinking trends, it can be hard to drown out the white noise and retain focus on what’s important. That is, your sense of taste and your ability to communicate what you enjoy in wine to those charged with the sale and service of it. But this is where red flags start to flutter for many. How do you talk about wine without sounding like the people who may have turned you off it in the first place?
During all those years on the restaurant floor, I spent plenty of time with drinkers and diners, and what I learned is that we all share the same apprehensions when testing our boundaries in wine. It’s only when you put yourself out there and talk about what you enjoy drinking that you realise your sense of taste is an incredibly personal journey. For me, wine is a great drink, but it’s the food, occasions, people and places that go with it that make it special.
Drinking and dining have forever gone hand in hand. As long-time sommelier Chris Morrison explains, interpreting the language used in the food and wine worlds can lead to a deeper understanding – and enjoyment – of both.