This weekend, we celebrate the annual Franschhoek Bastille Festival. Always taking place on the weekend closest to 14 July (Bastille Day), the Franschhoek Valley dresses up in the blue, white and red of the French flag, introduces visitors to its French heritage and entertains with delicious food and wine. What I love about the festival, is how it makes wine accessible. While I am all for the complexity of wines, for celebrating different terroir and site-specific influences, by making wine an experience, it becomes less intimidating and easier to enjoy.
The traditional world of wine was home to estates with intimidating tasting rooms and condescending staff as well as the patronising attitude and language of so-called connoisseurs. For those who like to keep up with the Joneses there might have been something aspirational about all the wine snobbery, but in reality it just scared many possible wine-drinkers into the welcoming and humble arms of an array of other alcoholic refreshments.Because of all the uncertainties when it comes to wine, have you seen how hesitant people can be when ordering wine in a restaurant? That is also why articles such as these are published: Wine Snob: How to fake it like a pro or 5 Tips for handling the holiday wine snob…
Although a lot has been done to create wine experiences that are entertaining and wine tourism environments that are warm, hospitable and friendly, the world of wine can still be an intimidating place. Of course what makes wine special, is indeed the fact that it is not like a soft drink or popular lager. Wine is not the same from one bottle to the next. The current vintage might be quite different to the previous year because of climate influences and winemaker preferences. Having cellared your wine for a few years, it might not taste the same as when first tasted and purchased.
And that is what makes wine the subject of song and poetry and of course even heated debate. That is why we love wine. And if you have gone to some effort to understand a bit more about wine, that is why you will also fall in love with it. You don’t have to be an expert, but you might also enjoy wine more when you realise that an exceptionally cold winter had an influence on the maturation potential of your Cabernet Sauvignon or that the soil type contributes to the minerality in your Chardonnay or that cooling ocean influences may be the reason why the particular Sauvignon Blanc you are tasting is less tropical than one made from grapes grown in a warmer area.
Of course you don’t have to study all these things, but if you are privileged to meet an enthusiastic and well-informed person in a wine tasting room, be introduced to a winemaker or even when you drink wine with those who know a little bit about what is in their glass, you might pick up on a lot of interesting facts and you might understand and therefore appreciate wine much more.
It is up to us in the industry however to always be aware that our well-meant and passionate discussions about wine might be daunting to those listening. This weekend, I am sure we will see many selfies, social media posts and real life smiles celebrating the wonder of the vine.