What’s the Hook?

whats the hookBack in the day when I was shopping demo tapes and playing showcases for record company execs in LA, every conversation revolved around “what’s the hook?” “It needs a better hook!” “The hook comes too late,” etc. The hook is that part of the song designed to grab the listener and make her crave its repetition. It’s that part of the song you can’t get out of your head no matter how much you want it to go away.

It’s the same in film writing or fiction. The “hook” is the cliffhanger or the charismatic character that holds the audience’s attention.

We associate “hooks” with manipulative marketing and sentimentality but even serious music has hooks—Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos are full of them. If a work doesn’t captivate its audience, it’s worth little regardless of how “serious” it is. Without a hook there is nothing for the audience to latch on to.

Do wines have hooks? I think they do. It may be ethereal aromas or gossamer textures, depth or concentration, a unique personality, polished tannins or exquisite balance. The snap of gunflint in a Chablis, the velvet texture of a Burgundian Pinot Noir, the rough-hewn personality of Chianti, delicacy and balance in a Brunello, the glint of sunshine in Sonoma fruit. Any of these can give us that experience of being bound, drawn in, and captivated by a wine.

We don’t often talk this way about wine. We’re too busy listing aroma notes. But any review of a quality wine should mention what grabs the taster. A wine might be without flaw or well made, but if you can’t identify a hook, it’s appeal will be limited. No one will fall in love with it.

I’m often asked what makes a wine great. There is a readily available answer. Its gotta have a hook.

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