I’ve been banging on about wine stories a lot the last few months, wondering whether they can really be the key to sustaining interest in wine. As usual, Oliver Styles has an interesting take on this. He does uncover a story, but it’s really about whether there is a story here or not.
Many years ago Styles was invited on a press junket to the Northern Rhone where he hung out with wine impresario Alain-Dominique Perrin, at his stunning Chateau featuring a 14th Century dinner table and a vintage car collection, listened in on a conversation with renowned wine consultant Michel Rolland, and over a delicious meal, tasted a line up of “La Las”, the top cuvees from Guigal. As a wine experience it doesn’t get any better assuming he’s sharing it with good company.
As Styles points out, if he were doing this today he’d be Instagramming the hell out it. But why?
But while of course we had pointed out that we couldn’t guarantee coverage, what was the story? What, in the words of my boss, was the top line? Wealthy bloke makes very good wine? Rich man has solid line in vintage Rhônes? When Perrin calls, Rolland answers? How to turn medieval martial architecture into a 21st-Century restroom feature? There wasn’t a story. I remember trying – I really tried – to run the angles past the editorial team but I knew it was hopeless.
Even if he were Instagramming with photos there is still no story:
But there wouldn’t be a story, would there? There would be a feed but nothing nourishing. I would have been passing of my experience as a lived event but it wasn’t my life – it was someone else’s.
He’s right. There isn’t anything here that anyone ought to be interested in. This is not to say there are no stories in the wine industry. But not every great experience is a story and not every great wine has a story behind it.
Is the rest of our time on social media going to be filled with anodyne summaries of classic French sub-regions written for neophytes and commented on by sycophants; unboxings and “reviews” of wines clearly compromised because they are freebies; and my pet peeve – the guess what this wine is/what I’m drinking/where I’m going/what I’m doing next? Does anyone comment positively on any of this without an ulterior motive?
He self-deprecatingly calls himself a “jaded ex-hack” and the headline of the article suggests this is a peculiarity of “one-percenter wine”. Granted there are more interesting stories among the hard-scrabble up and comers than among the well-heeled.
But the hard truth is wine is about the wine—when there is a good story that certainly enhances the wine but it’s more rare than we are led to believe by all the social media baloney.