Tattoos, high fat diets, fasting… many things that were once totally taboo are now part of our everyday lives and not even an eyebrow raises when men wear their hair in buns or when a scoop of ice glides gracefully into your glass of Sauvignon Blanc…
I am sure that often traditions are challenged plainly for the fact that they are traditional. As a result, taboos turn into trends. I do, however, think that our exposure to other cultures and different ways of doing have increased significantly due to the wide use of technology and the whole global village effect. I am sure that being better informed has made us more open-minded and more tolerant for ways different to our traditions and in conflict with our taboos.
This is of course also true for the wine industry.
Just consider the use of screwcaps. While filed for patent in 1976 already, screwcaps stayed a taboo in the industry and the market for a while longer. (Read more) In this instance, however, science and quality concerns eventually convinced producers and consumers alike that for some wines, a screwcap is a very fitting closure! Today, while most expensive reds will still be under cork, screwcaps are the preferred closure for most white, rosé and lighter red wines – top quality ones too.
While most of us have come round to alternative closures, can the same be said for alternative packaging? Box wines and nowadays also wine in a can?! Wine buyers for Scandinavia where the 3 Litre Bag in Box packaging is very popular, do not compromise on quality and wine in a can is becoming increasingly popular – especially in the US. Quirky packaging and Instagram marketing campaigns can make wine in a can look like a gimmick and while many are concerned about contamination of flavours, I guess we’re not all that well informed yet about the science and facts. The perception might be that only cheap wine will go into a can, but didn’t we say the same about screwcaps and cheap wine? (Read more)
What happened to the idea that the older the wine the better? Do we still buy wine to mature in the cellar or do we drink them on the day of purchase? Perhaps we would still opt for an older vintage red when standing in front of the wine shelf, but we have moved on from the idea that wine has to be matured for 10, 20 years. Wine styles globally have changed, many South African examples differ from their cooler climate counterparts when it comes to maturation potential and perhaps wine drinkers have become more savvy. This is of course not to say that our wines cannot and should not mature, it just shows that the taboo-value has changed.
Serving a red wine with fish would have been a big taboo in culinary and etiquette circles not too long ago. Today, thanks to the availability of food and wine literature such as dedicated pairing blogs, TV shows and even the educational contribution of wine tourism, consumers are open to suggestions and understand that food and wine pairing is about much more than matching white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat.
While the interesting mix of all kinds of liquor is celebrated in what has almost become a science of cocktails, the use of wine in cocktails was pretty much restricted to Mimosas and Bellinis requiring some champagne or sparkling wine. Today, mixers are at the order of the day and wine cocktails combine traditional cultivars with juices and liquors and sodas for an array of drinks.
Mixers are not only limited to wine cocktails. The popularity of the wine spritzer (white wine with soda) hints on another taboo that has become a to-do: Day Drinking. Whether the trend to drink during day time has given rise to the popularity of watered down, low alcohol or no alcohol alternatives or whether the trend to drink less has caused the availability of low and no-alcohol drinks and encouraged day drinking, is a good question. What is true, however, is that it is not uncommon to see people relax with a glass long before sunset. But what looks like a glass of wine, cocktail or gin and tonic, might easily be a de-alcoholised wine, mocktail or alcohol free G&T!
The trend for solo-drinking, like solo travelling, is something many of us might still find strange. But as society becomes much more relaxed about pre-conceived ideas, I applaud the fact that those who enjoy their own company or plainly happens to be on their own, can now enjoy a glass of wine after a long day at work or book that trip to Tuscany without having to wait for the white horse to come galloping in.
After making cocktails with wine, serving your red young and with fish, this last taboo on my list should not be too much of a shock: adding ice to your wine. While I get that you would like a cool drink on a warm day and that your wine warms up quickly during a SA summer, I can’t help but cringe when I see those cubes diluting the wine in the glass. I think there are other ways to deal with alcohol or calorie concerns, so if you really want to enjoy the wine, rather chill it well and enjoy smaller quantities at a time so that it does not warm up so quickly.
Taboos might be the result of grandmothers scaring us away from unsavoury behaviour and I see trends as social commentary hinting at the mindset of consumers today, but when it comes to the taboos and to-do’s of wine, I have learned one thing: never say never.