Wineries Seek New Approaches to Court Riotous Millennials

As is often the case, you don’t see many of life’s twists coming. Most of the time you don’t even notice them until they hit you square in the face. That was the case when I cam across a Los Angeles Times’ piece – “Wineries pour efforts into targeting younger drinkers” by Tiffany Hsu. The article reflects on the people and experiences encountered while attending a Wine Riot event in LA. Wine Riot is a traveling symposium that cycles through major cities across the country geared toward attracting twenty and thirty-year-olds who are curious to experience a new atmosphere of fun wine education. Considering the focus of this site, I had no choice but to jump-in quickly.

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(Photo from, Chiacgoist.com)

In so many ways Tiffany Hsu’s piece underscores many of my thoughts about how wineries need to court young drinkers and newcomers alike — future success will be built upon keeping things simple. Breaking down wine into simpler and less stuffy experiences that focus on the enjoyments of wine rather than the pretentions. This doesn’t mean that wineries who have the right sites and “know how” to make classic, age worthy wines should forego their potential for newer price sensitive markets, but it does highlight that if wineries want to persuade new business then they should start with the social aspects of wine first, and move into deeper educational arenas second.

As I pointed out in Part 1 and Part 2 of my “Seven Basics for All Wine Drinkers”, you’re not going to learn a whole lot unless you’re having a good time doing it.

Much of the new interest in younger drinkers is driving from the most fundamental laws of life — we all die. And if we’re lucky enough we may retire and live out our golden years. However on cheaper, fixed incomes that prevent extravagant spending on expensive wine.

“[Baby} boomers born right after World War II are starting to retire. As they adjust to fixed incomes, they are downsizing their wine spending and the amount they drink, according to research group IBISWorld… Meanwhile, the youngest drinkers, 21- to 34-year-olds known as millennials, are looking more appealing.”

But this new activity of focusing on the emerging millennial market (70 million plus people) is not predatory. Most millennials have a curiosity to be culturally well-rounded and live balanced, quality lives. Wine is serving as one aspect of this end goal, and wineries hope to appeal to this desire for culture and good living, as they have done very successfully already. A fact Mrs. Hsu intelligently points out in her piece quoting Jesse Porter of Young Winos of LA about emerging wine drinkers:

Young wine consumers are willing to experiment and eager to develop more sophisticated palates… But companies that pander to buzzy youth trends are pigeonholing the demographic… None of these misguided appeals address the ever-growing desire among young drinkers to know what it is they’re drinking, why it tastes the way it does and how that information will help them discover other wines they like.”

In many ways this should be the resonating core of the piece. Young, new, and at times, nervous wine drinkers are interested in learning about wines for it’s understood and classical beauty, but simply want to learn at their own pace and with a deconstructed method. Rebellious to institutions of the past, yet intimately connected to the experience at hand.

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(Photo from, upout.com)

It’s the same sort of desire that took college courses out of cramped lecture halls and onto the greens of Academic Quads for discussion rather than unilateral lectures.

Wine Riot, which was founded by Second Glass (started by Morgan First, 29, and Tyler Balliet, 32), is rolling from city to city as an experimental ground that future focused wineries are lining up to participate in.

However, my only issue is that Wine Riot appears to be disproportionately corporate, and doesn’t focus on smaller producers who by-and-large produce the best wines across all price points. Although larger corporations like Constellation, Diageo, Foley Family Wines, etc. produce reliable wine, their products are mostly an exercises in scaled scientific theory devoid of a  craft approach, and do not deserve the complete spotlight.

(For a full list of Napa wineries that are under corporate umbrellas check out this link. You’ll probably be surprised to see wineries that you thought were independent are much less so.)

For intimate wine loves the humanizing “soul” of wine has much more to do with a personal connection to land and labor over scaled controls, and people have been showing approval with their wallets for this agrarian approach by paying top dollar. That’s not to say that larger operations do not have a place in the market, they certainly do. However they don’t deserve the whole share of the pie and should be communicated within historical context. (ie: winemaking coopertaive vs terroir driven wine).

But what can I say, nearly all American beer drinkers start with Bud Lite before they moving along to better beer options. So why expect these same young folks to do anything different with wine.

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(Photo from, brightestyoungthings.com)

Nevertheless, it is exciting to see new energy on attracting younger wine drinks. But the real long-term benefit is not the immediate sell of wine, but the grooming that’s going on. Something that in time will inspire confidence in these same young folks to make their own wine decisions themselves. Essentially prepping them for future wine education and exploration.

It’s truly great stuff.

I hope there are more creative events like Second Glass’ “Wine Riot” into the future where wineries can band together and promote their philosophies directly to a more virginal crowd. Perhaps it will even separate the old guard form the new. You don’t want to be the last winery to realize you should have paid attention to us young folks, and unfortunately have a big dose of reality hit you square in the face… OUCH!

For more info on Second Glass and if a Wine Riot event is coming to a city near you, click on the image below.

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(Photo from, secondglass.com)

Sincerely,

Evan LaNouette
Founder & Author – WINEreproach.com 

Email: WINEreproach@gmail.com
Twitter: @WINEreproach

Seven Basics For All Wine Drinkers, Pt. 2

In this second segment of “Seven Basics For All Wine Drinker” I’m offering up the last four guidelines.

For a chance to familiarize with the first three wine basics click here.

In review the “Seven Basics” are guidelines everyone should keep in mind when developing their palate. Enjoy!

Seven Basics For All Wine Drinkers, Pt. 2

4. It’s just as important to know what wine you don’t like, as it is to know what wine you do like.
Although a certain amount of hedonism exists in wine. The goal isn’t simply to find a mindless pleasure. Or another way of putting it is wine wasn’t designed for pleasure alone. Rather it derives from a fundamentally natural process that humans found relaxing, which connected us to nature – something we found pleasure within. For me this means there is as much something to be enjoyed in wine, as there is something to be learned.  But I digress…

In practical terms, wine has many forms and being standardized is fundamentally counterintuitive to wine’s basic anatomy. You should never expect two wines carrying similar monikers (varietal designation, regional designation, style, vintage, etc.) to offer the exact same experience. At a minimum wine styles will vary depending on winemaking practices, minor climatic and soil difference relative to location (eg: Northern Montalcino tends to produce more subtle Brunello and southern Montalcino produces fuller bodied Brunello). Or at the maximum, vintage variations can dictate whether a harvest is a rare manifestation and should be cherished, or whether it is mediocre and should be forgone.

The confidence needed to navigate this variable landscape comes from digestible experiences. In effect don’t just look at wine on a binary scale – 1 for “I like” and 0 for “I don’t like” – and immediately discarded those wine experiences that didn’t resonate or were unsatisfying. It’s important to understand why you don’t like a certain wine. This is where big developments can be made for a couple of reasons.

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(Photo from, corksandcaftans.com)

To start with, your best ally in a wine store or restaurant is often the merchant or sommelier. In order to get the best assistance you need to be able to explain what wine you like and what you don’t’ like. With that information in hand your wine adviser will be able to think of wine styles applicable to your occasion and narrow down to a single option relative to your personal preferences. When this happens you are likely to discover wines you’d never find on your own. In my experience this process has changed the way past clients of mine have look at a varietal, or region, or even to all red or white wines as a whole.

Secondly, your wine preferences will evolve in time. What you like today, you may find uninspiring in a few months. In many ways it is similar to music. There are songs that inspire us to enjoy life. There are songs that sooth us, and there are songs that are classics, never seaming to wear out. Yet, conversely, there are songs that just get played out!  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and sometimes our eyes wander – looking for new wines to savor.

Another reason to keep in mind your wine dis-enjoyments is to learn vintage variations. Although more advanced than simply keeping stock of your personal biases, knowing a poor year is a great way to prevent needless spending.

In some cases the best use of your money isn’t always the oldest wine available, but the vintage that made it nearly impossible to make bad wine. Vintages that come to mind are Napa 2007, Tuscany 2006 & 2007, Germany or Cote-de-Nuites Burgundy 2009 & 2005, or Rioja 2001.

Conversely, there are certain vintages (in particular for regions closer to limiting latitudes of viticulture) that you should avoid unless you are very familiar with the producer. Examples would be 2007 in Oregon for Pinot Noir, 2000 for German Riesling, 2002 for Italian Barolo, or 2003 for New Zealand Pinot Noir. By knowing bull and bust years you will ensure to spend your money wisely. Hedging yourself from having atypical experiences when exploring new wines.

In short knowing your own personal preferences and biases will give you ammunition to properly utilize the expertise of those who’ve made a career from connecting wine lovers and wine novices to bottles yet unturned. Exploring wine and at times tasting something you can’t appreciate is merely laying groundwork for future changes in your palate preferences. As well, knowing which years are poor will give you perspective into the limits of a growing region and allow you to better navigate everything form a wine shop’s inventory to a restaurants wine list. Ultimately giving you confidence in where to put your money.

Point, wine is not an example of where ignorance is bliss.

5. Open multiple bottles and drink them side by side.
This especially applies to social occasions. It won’t do you any good to repeatedly drink the same red or white wine when there are enough empty glasses to justify opening multiple bottles. Seriously, even if you need two bottles at a dinner, pick two different wines within the same classification – style, varietal, vintage, etc. As long as everyone gets a basic (3 to 5 oz.) pour this is a great way to hone an understanding of subtle differences. For example, open two Pinot Noirs from different regions or neighboring regions, or two Cabernet Sauvignons – one from Chile and one from Napa, or what ever combination… You get the picture. Just make the most of every occasion and give yourself variety.

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(Photo from, Garret Kowalsky)

Remember wine basic #2, you’re not going to learn from repetition. A wine palate is developed from experiences. Opening multiple wines is a sure fire way to bring you from wine ignorance into understanding in shorter timeframe.

I seriously can’t stress this enough!

6. When buying wine, get in the habit of buying from a specialty wine shop or smaller retailer.
I touched on this briefly in the past, but to reiterate. Dialogue is crucial to wine discovery and bias discovery. Whether you’re drinking wine with friends or buying wine for yourself. Keep that conversation going.

In the past, while I was working with a winery in Sebastopol, CA, I made a habit of stopping into a local shop (the-wine-emporium.com) and chatting up the owner to develop a conversation about recent vintages.  Of course taking home a few bottles with me to explore, I made some quick strides in my knowledge of recent Pinot Noir vintages.

As I continually do, find a wine shop or a few where you get good feedback comparable to your knowledge level. Meaning if you get the feeling your wine shop is talking over you, their info is unrelatable, and not educating you further, than it may not be a good fit. You should leave a specialty wine shop with a sense of empowerment over your choices, not confusion.

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(Photo form, thegoodwineship.co.uk)

On the other side of the spectrum, a totally hands-off buying experience is like spinning your wheels. As there is no coach to help you catalyze your wine experience and provide reference for what’s in the bottle. Above all DO NOT make a habit of buying wine from large corporate grocery stores. Private grocers are a different subset, but the larger entities exploit economies of scale to the point of dilution rather than offering wines evocative of anything meaningful.

For every rule there is an exception, but make sure you’re buying wine from a reputable source and don’t just assume a large grocer will bring you wine referential to anything but the over scaled. Some day it may be possible for larger grocers to reach that level of access in the wine world, but I’ve yet to see it happen significantly in this country.

7. Develop a wine rhythm.
Depending on your budget make a habit of building wine into your weekly routine. Whether that’s a bottle a night or one budget-stretching bottle during the weekend, find a natural routine that fits your personality, budget, and current interest in wine. One of the best pieces of advice I received while starting out as a young wine professional was given to me by a studied Sommelier.

I asked, “Is it better for someone to drink one bottle a night or simply one expensive bottle a week when first learning about wine?”

His answer, “One a week.”

The emphasis in his message was less about frequency and more about mindset. If you’re jumping into a singular bottle a week you will ensure to take your time, see how it evolves, and focus on what is in front of you rather than drink it passively. Obviously the proper fit is as much a matter of personality as it is about your current level of wine appreciation. So if you’re just developing, play around with a few frequencies and price points to see how you learn most fluidly.

If you easily distract, but want to develop your palate than drink less often to force yourself to focus. Or if you’re budgets are of a concern and you’re just starting to learn about wine than forgo expensive bottles to keep your interest alive and drink more frequently. Remember it’s all-subjective (guideline #1)

In the simplest of terms pick a date to drink wine and stick to it. Making time to relax by blocking yourself out and sticking to your own plan of leisure is sometimes the only weapon against a busy lifestyle. By making space no one can touch, you’re ensuring to cut out distractions and to learn first hand – the only way you really can.

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I hope these Seven Wine Basics have been informative, and let me know your feedback.

Any emails I receive I always get back to and answer directly. If you have any other wine questions, send me your thoughts at WINEreproach@gmail.com and I’d be happy to incorporate them into the next article at WINEreproach.com.

Seven Basics For All Wine Drinkers

1.  When learning about wine, JUST RELAX. There really aren’t any rules.

2.  You are not born with a database in your nose.

3.  Take a shot in the dark when buying wine either to take home or when 4 Selecting at a restaurant. DO NOT just buy what is familiar to you. In fact, buy something because you have no idea what it is.

4.  It’s just as important to know what wine you don’t like, as it is to know what wine you do like.

5.  Open multiple bottles and drink them side by side.

6.  When buying wine, get in the habit of buying from a specialty wine shop or smaller retailer.

7.  Develop a wine rhythm.

Sincerely,

Evan LaNouette
Founder & Author – WINEreproach.com 

Email: WINEreproach@gmail.com
Twitter: @WINEreproach

Seven Basics For All Wine Drinkers, Pt. 1

Sitting around a table of sushi and elk steaks, sipping a glass of Cava I got into a lengthy conversation with new friends I meet while skiing in Big Sky, Montana. A fellow après skier at the table asked for my advice on how to develop a keener palate, one better able to differentiate wine styles, and how best to prepare for an upcoming trip to Tuscany. Her inquiry reminded me of conerns I often hear from budding wine drinkers.

“For years I’ve been drinking wine, but struggle to find significant differences between different wines… I’m afraid that I won’t be able to appreciate the wines I come across in Tuscany without knowing something about them to begin with.”

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If you have the same concerns as my new friend above, no worries, you are not the first nor the only to feel this way. In fact, you’re in the norm, and are perhaps falling victim to some bad habits.

To help out I gave my skiing buddy a set of guidelines to follow when exploring wine both domestically and abroad.

I’ve taken the basic pillars of our conversation and developed them further. I’ll be sharing them in a two part series I’m calling “Seven Basics For All Wine Drinkers.” These are guidelines everyone should utilize, especially those seeking to jump-start their ability to differentiate wines and quickly develop a worldly palate. I hope you enjoy these ideas and as always I’d love to hear your feedback.

Email: WINEreproach@gmail.com
Twitter: @WINEreproach

Seven Basics For All Wine Drinkers

1. When learning about wine, JUST RELAX. There really aren’t any rules.
Dogmas are distracting. They take away form the core of the experience when just learning basic reference points. Remember back in college when you’d sit in your dorm room and try to study or read a book, but your hall-mate was blaring music on their stereo? Well that is what happens a lot with wine etiquette. It’s distracting to those trying to learn, and often overshadows the core of wine appreciation – to enjoy yourself and let knowledge osmotically inflow as you roll back your glass.

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(Photo from: favim.com)

In regards to wine etiquette, the only people that really need to worry about it are those in the service and hospitality side of the business. That doesn’t mean you should sacrifice proper glassware for Dixy Cups, but proper wine ettiquette isn’t intended for mass replication. In my experience, beginner wine drinkers worry too much about appearing to drink wine “correctly” – ensuring to gratify wine stereotypes – rather than actually enjoying what is in front of them.

The crux of the message is it doesn’t matter if you’re drinking wine, smoking cigars, or studying the lifecycle of fungi. You won’t retain much if you’re self-conscious, and not focusing on what’s in front of you.

Just relax and enjoy the wine singing in your glass!

2.    You are not born with a database in your nose.
This is a big misconception, so pay attention! Having an educated ability to identify different wine styles is like all information recall, you have to build memories from experiences in order to notice patterns in the future. People are not born knowing what everything smells like so don’t get frustrated and believe you lack the biologically required skills to see multiple dimensions in a wine’s aroma and flavor profile.

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(Photo from: cigarbrief.com)

The human brain is designed to notice and identify patterns, but you’re not born with knowledge of these patterns. In order to take in sensory information, identify aromas and flavors in a wine, and label them, you need first hand experiences to use as references points. One way to speed up your retention of wine profiles (or patterns) is to discuss your thoughts with other people.

Bounce what you notice or don’t notice in your wine with those around you. I swear you’ll be surprised at what you sense in the glass the next time you delve back in when someone tells you to look for the “red berry” or “caramel” or “lavender” aromas within. Your mind will bring all past experiences associated with red berries or caramel or lavender, etc. to the forefront of your brain and allow you to notice them even when present in subtle concentrations. Meaning with a little priming, aromas will jump out at you, making it easier to notice them in wines and in the future.

3. Take a shot in the dark when buying wine either to take home or when selecting at a restaurant. DO NOT just buy what is familiar to you. In fact buy something because you have no idea what it is.
This brings me to one of my biggest pet-peeves that many new wine drinkers fall victim to.  I don’t mean to sound judgmental, because I’m not one to judge anyone for how they drink wine. Remember rule #1 there really aren’t any rules. However, many beginner wine drinkers seeking to know more about wine will settle far to easily for what is familiar to them rather than take a chance on what is unknown.  Don’t fear the unknown embrace it!

Often those unconfident in their wine knowledge will hold strong only to regions, producers, or varietals that are familiar to them. In practice this leads to a carousel of repetition – ordering the same wine over and over again to the point of ad nauseam. It is so important to keep variety alive, especially in the things that relax us and bring enjoyment to our lives. Wine is like music, like food, or like a city it is meant to be explored.

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(Photo form: wineterroirs.com)

If you want to develop an ability to place a wine in your glass to its region of origin or varietal(s) within, than for God’s sakes please explore the field of options in front of you! You’ll never know what Spanish Rioja is like, or how it’s different from Bordeaux Cabernets if you only drink Napa Cab. I know it sounds exceptionally obvious when spelled out, but it’s important to develop experiences, because (as guideline #2 illustrated) you only know what you’ve experienced.

This is a sure fire way to realize the significant and subtle differences in wine from all over the world, and quickly graduate from the elementary school of “wine tastes like wine” to a more discerning place of confidence.

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You’ve reached the end of my first segment on the Seven Basics For All Wine Drinkers.  Thank you for reading. Tomorrow come back and read the next four wine basics and further develop your wine understanding.

Sincerely,

Evan LaNouette
Founder & Author – WINEreproach.com
 
Email: WINEreproach@gmail.com
Twitter: @WINEreproach

Wine Event: Echoing Green And At Times Burgundy

Last week, I was invited by Echoing Green’s San Francisco chapter to act as a wine host and educator during the group’s 2013 kickoff meeting. A good friend of mine hosted the chapter event at his apartment in San Francisco’s Lower Haight district. He figured having a wine bar with a few handpicked selections and someone in house to lead the members through the night’s wines would be a good way to get this brain-trust organization excited for their year ahead.

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For those unfamiliar with Echoing Green, they are a powerfully minded organization with chapters dotted across America’s major cities. Its goal is to drive positive social impact through the talents of its members, and most importantly, its fellows. The attendees at this meeting were all young professionals in their mid to late 20’s – who act as consultants to a grouping of non- profits and companies with altruistic end games across the USA and as far away as Africa. These young faces, mostly a few years out of college, are all well educated and have core real world business, finance, engineering, law, or social impact experience; they are seeking to use their talents for more than turning a profit!

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The night started with an hour long social and wine tasting where I presented 6 wines spanning Napa Valley to Alsace, and stopping in Burgundy and a few regions in Italy along the way. Here was the line up in order (bolded wines were the stand out bottles):

Domaine Carneros 2008 Brut Cuvee

Prunotto 2011 Roero Arneis, D.O.C.G.

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht 2010 Pinot Blanc

Maison Louis Latour 2010 Marsannay

Le Macchiole 2009 Bolgheri Rosso, D.O.C.

Frog’s Leap 2008 Zinfandel

The tasting was followed by a few hours of a collaborative planning roundtable, discussing the goals of the National Organization and the experience each member is hoping to receive through membership. It was clear that the goal of the meeting was equal parts planning to help the incredible fellows as much as possible as well as an opportunity to build friendships and a sense of community with the likeminded people in the organization.

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As someone similar in age to the chapter members, I came away truly inspired. Most young people get a bad rep, either deservedly or not. We’re easily targeted by the Baby Boom Generation as lazy over consumers, too occupied by an increasingly digitized world to get out of our bubbles and commit to social change and follow our passions. Often I rebut this insinuation with the need for patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was it reformed.
On the wine side of things, I found that the Maison Louis Latour 2010 Marsannay (Red Burgundy) was the standout of the night. Not too surprising considering it’s Louis Latour above $12 and 2010 Red Burgundy form Cote de Nuits. Marsannay sits as one of the northern gateway villages to Burgundy, and Latour’s 2010 carried the subtle yet distinctive spice indicative of northern Burgundy.IMG_0901 Both the Frog’s Leap 2008 Zinfandel and Domain Carneros 2008 Brut Cuvee were showing very nicely, and I would easily recommend either as go-to’s to fit any occassion, but I just saw slightly more complexity in the Marsannay.
A special thanks to Echoing Green for inviting me to host their event and to my friends for letting me into their home to spout about a couples wines for an evening.
Sincerely,
Evan LaNouette
Founder & Author – WINEreproach.com
 
Email: WINEreproach@gmail.com
Twitter: @WINEreproach

Introduction & Intentions: WINEreproach Defined

Since launching WINEreproach, obtaining the domain, selecting photography, etc. I’ve hit an early block in taking the first step and making a first post. How do you start such an endeavor? Is it with a bang, with controversy, with massive call to action? Not a great omen considering I’ve yet to truly begin.

However, to remedy this early onset malady, I’m reaching for the simplest of conversations. Introducing my intentions and myself.  The real question here is: Why should you read my work?

Who is the author?

I am Evan LaNouette, born and raised between Sonoma California and Columbus Ohio. As the sole author and authority of WINEreproach you are reading my opinions. This blog is personally funded and driven. I provide an unbiased perspective that hasn’t been financed by someone’s pocket nor am I held in restraints by dogma on wine. I’m constantly learning more about the globe of wine options and enjoy connecting people to wines they are unlikely to find on their own.

However, that is not to say I don’t have respect for wine based in traditional styles. In my years of working in the wine business, either on the winemaking or collecting sides, I’ve acquired a great respect for those whose lives were dedicated to cultivating the vine and understanding the wine it buds.

On paper I am a graduate of Cornel University where I studied Viticulture (grape growing) and Enology (wine fermentation), which I complemented by a world-class boot-camp experience in New York working with Italian Wine Merchants – learning and tasting the best wines of Italy and France along the way. Now I’m back in my homeland of Northern California and am building a further career out in America’s wine heartland. It’s from these experiences that I draw much of my wine understanding – scientific theory, connoisseurship, and winemaking experiences.

What are my intentions?

As a millennial I am apart of a generation with many faces, perspectives, and traditions. We are quite simply a generation that refuses to be tied down to simple definition… I’d like to believe we like it that way… Within our generation is tomorrow’s future. How scary? As we ascend to take control of this world we will occasionally need a moment to relax and reflect. Unlike the generations that came before us, to calm a nerve, an increasing number of young folks are choosing to engage in a centuries old curiosity of exploring wine. As we build careers in established industries, we’re joining a workforce of established professionals, and the same can be said for how we enter wine appreciation.

In practical business terms, wine is the new golf. It is a way for people to relate, in and outside of a business setting, and more importantly to enjoy with friends and family. When enjoyed in moderation, wine bonds people to experiences and to those they shared in the experience with. It’s for these same reasons that wine has been nurtured into one of the world’s most prized enjoyments since it was first sealed in clay containers in Transcaucasia some 6,000 years ago.

But before I jump into wine history, I need to state my most important intention, and that is to be clear and honest. Not to get flowery, but to be crystal clear. If I deviate from this premise, I hope that YOU (my loyal reader) will comment and correct me.

Wine is a dialogue and it’s important to keep that dialogue relatable in order to cultivate new entrants. Although wine brands are often built on grandeur, wine needs to be kept under control and unintimidating. It should be a welcoming curiosity not a fortress of words that promote exclusivity.

I will spout further on each of these points in future posts, but for now that is where we begin.

Let me know what you think and always keep the feedback coming.

You can follow me on twitter as well (username: @WINEreproach).

Sincerely,

Evan LaNouette

Founder & Author – WINEreproach.com

winereproach@gmail.com