Peeling away the grime from wine

Monday, 26 August, 2013
Gabrielle Le Roux
Gabrielle Le Roux flies the flag in the face of pretentious wine quaffs out there in the print, digital and blogging world.
Admittedly due to the naivety of my youth, I do still believe and live in a romanticized world of food and wine where I tend to believe the best of most people and brands. But my blinders are slowly peeling away, and as part of the younger generation that will take over from our existing industry pillars – I feel like I should have my say.

1. Most ’wine writers‘ are self-titled experts and very few of them have actually undergone formal training and education to be considered an expert in their field. Most of them started their quaffing purely from a passion or interest that developed into a career and even a livelihood – if they  are lucky, they get paid.
Thus you are not a PROFESSIONAL expert – so if you’re on a high horse, get off the saddle. Lose the attitude and get a BSC, a Masters, or make an attempt at furthering yourself academically and then I’ll maybe consider taking your word as law.

2. The Age Issue – Alas, the typical Age vs. Experience argument comes into play as everyone over half a century old, automatically assumes that they will receive unlimited adoration and unquestionable faith from the wine drinking community. How about no. Just because someone may be younger and slightly less experienced than you does not automatically render his or her opinion as completely irrelevant and unfounded.

Tasting notes are bulls***. There is no such thing as a ‘soft juicy tannin’ – What would that taste like really? Also, there is no way that summer citrus fruit can be ‘whimsical’– that’s also a load of rubbish.
Tasting notes are intended to be a guide to the taste, flavour and texture profiles of wines targeted at the people who aren’t familiar or experts and need some guidance!
Wine is objective and intensely personal so these ‘tasting notes’ are fundamentally based on one or two people’s PERSONAL interpretation of how a wine may or may not be in relation to its typical cultivar characteristics.
Real tasting to me is about exploring the wine and pin-pointing characteristics that I may not have identified myself, but may get from other people’s insights.

4. The ‘Grape Gods’ – As much as I am passionate and fuelled in furthering my education in viticulture and viniculture, It really grinds my bones when you get to a restaurant/ tasting room/ conversation and some pompous tool uses intimidation and his own self-glorification to intimidate you. We aren’t all wine connoisseurs with discerning palates, and playing a wine list/wine up to, as comedian Michael McIntyre calls it, a bulls*** production, really isn't beneficial to anyone involved. Firstly, it intimidates the less-educated consumer and may put them off completely. No sale there. Secondly it really doesn't support an industry already struggling to survive in the grip of restaurant mark ups and the high cost of living. Why not try a different approach, and try to rather seduce these people and draw them into a world instead of scaring them away from one.

5. The power of knowledge – My goal as someone in the wine, food and hospitality industry is to try and educate the masses on the basics. I’m not particularly interested in trying to change the mind-sets and opinions of the most esteemed and knowledgeable pro’s out there, and I definitely won’t be taking up the Editor of Wine Spectator anytime soon - this specialized group of experts only make up a slim minority of all consumers and wine drinkers. My problem is with people my age, older and younger calling a soda-stream bubbly ‘Champagne’ and posting Instagram shots of their ‘Champagne showers’. Herein lies the problem and the market that needs the help.
Out quaffing a wine quaff to have your own point proven really isn't doing anyone a favour.

6. Expand the industry – Believe it or not, there is a whole exciting world full of people from different industries (fashion, lifestyle, students, business, media etc.) that probably enjoy wine from time to time and support the industry, albeit in a small capacity. Trying to sell more wine to the same limited, elite group of wino’s (who, a lot of the time, get most of their wine for free from overly generous producers anyway) is not going to cause a boom in South African wine sales. Involving people from various industries and getting THEM to drink your wine will not only expand your market to various other sectors with people from different walks of life, but you will be making the industry more accessible to ALL.

In conclusion, I would just like to send out a very genuine and friendly request to everyone in the wine industry who has half a voice.  If you are one of those people being the negative Betty please try to make it a nicer, friendlier and more inclusive place to be. There is no need for segregation or ego-spats. Surely we can collectively try to (as a community with a unified goal) support and uplift an industry that quite frankly will always struggle a bit.

To read more, click here to go through to Gabrielle's blog