New Voices Will Find New Ways of Describing Wine

I agree with everything Tom Wark writes regarding the positive impact of greater diversity among wine writers. In The Plain Facts of Diversifying Wine Writing, he compares the emergence of new writers from diverse backgrounds to the development of blogging as an important form of wine communication:

The new voices envigorated the realm of the wine communicator.

It seems likely that the same dynamic should result as the communications and media side of the wine industry answers the call to elevate the voices of people of color who traditionally have not pursued a communications and media career in the wine space. Their welcome into this side of the industry should lead to some invigoration.

But I disagree about the content of that new writing.

The point here is that if any of us are hoping for some new perspective or appreciation to emerge from the efforts to diversify the wine writing field that hadn’t occurred to previous generations of mainly white wine writers, there will certainly be disappointment. The color of skin and history of a people won’t matter. That northeast facing hillside vineyard is still going to struggle to get enough sun to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon and that will need to be explained by a writer of color in the same way it has been explained by writers for a century: photosynthesis.

He is, of course, correct that facts about grape growing and winemaking won’t change regardless of the background of the people who write about them.

However, what is likely to change are the taste preferences and taste references that people from diverse cultural backgrounds will bring to the appreciation of wine.

I suspect that people who haven’t spent their lives eating large hunks of meat will not fall head over heels for Cabernet Sauvignon. If they don’t typically bathe seafood in butter they may find some styles of Chardonnay off-putting.  Does anyone really crave Bordeaux with pork vindaloo?

And taste references are likely to differ as well. People educated in tropical regions of Africa where apples are less prevalent may describe Riesling or Chenin Blanc differently from what they learn in the textbooks. If you grew up with mangosteen or jack fruit I suspect your tasting notes will not look like the French-influenced vocabulary we are familiar with in the wine world.

And I suspect sweeter, lower-alcohol wines will become more popular because of their versatility in taming spicy cuisine.

Skin color doesn’t change the facts of winemaking but cultural background surely influences taste. I see no reason to think the new voices entering the conversation will not bring with them new ways of describing wine.

And that will be a development worth celebrating.

2 comments

  1. Good morning, Dwight.

    Thanks for reading. I’ve thought about this notion of new descriptors, including for this piece. I just don’t see the occasional addition of a new flavor descriptor as an innovation in any meaningful way. You and I both experienced this in our lives as the diversity of available cuisine expanded and resulted in new references. Moreover, it’s highly unlikely that any new flavors or descriptors will be deployed in the service of wine reviews in any unique way. Finally, most people growing up in the United States, regardless of their race, will have similar taste and flavor experiences.

  2. Hi Tom,
    Yes, you’re right. We have seen it. So I don’t think it will end and will likely accelerate with more influence from people who didn’t grow up in the U.S., since wine is becoming a global phenomenon. The tasting note is continually being attacked. I suspect some enterprising writers will keep seeking alternatives.

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