This is not your fathers wine buying.
There is a great little article posted today in SunJournal.com about how the tastes of a small, but extremely influential group of people are impacting the wine trade.
And they're NOT talking about the Robert Parkers of the world, whose tendency to enjoy big, alcohol-laden fruit bombs have influenced wineries the world over to produce 'bomb'-astic wines at all costs in order to chase the high-end of the big wine magazines' point rating systems.
These are 20-something sommeliers and wine directors that work for some of the most well-respected and expensive restaurants in the United States.
And the wines that they're looking for? "Wines that are quirky, regional, with rich background stories..." Wow - definitely NOT your father's fruit bomb style of wine!...
"Their challenge is to find a wine that they're as excited about as the chef is ... about the flavor of his vegetables from the farmers market..."
This is very good news for "old world" style wines from Italy and Spain, which are finding increasing favor with this growing influential set of wine buyers. And it might be bad news for the fruit-bomb makers, who are seeing a growing backlash in the consumer market against these styles of wine.
Now, I've met some of this 20-something sommelier set, and I can tell you that 1) they do prefer regional, exciting wines that offer something unique, 2) they always seek to compliment the chef's food as much as humanly possible, and 3) their buying habits do help to set some trends with winemakers who are seeking to get a foothold into the exclusive high-end restaurant market.
What's also very interesting, at least to the Dude here, is how the article ends. SunJournal.com quotes industry analyst Jon Fredrikson regarding if and how this trend may impact what wines start to fly off the supermarket shelves (as opposed to what is recommended at the tables of the nation's high-end epicureans):
"We way overestimate the knowledge of the American consumer..."
Ouch. Is this true?
Dude's opinion: I can see a great deal of merit in this 'don't-call-it pessimistic-call-it-realistic' view. The fact is that most wine consumers just want a decent wine that they will enjoy, at a fair price. You can't force people to make the jump into serious wine appreciation if they lack the desire to do so. But then again, introducing someone to a quirky, unique wine and in the process expanding their wine knowledge is one of the small pleasures of life for the Dude. I just don't expect everyone to be into that - if you forced your passion for, say, crocheting onto me, I would be finding an excuse to spend a little quality time away from you (like 10 or 12 years worth).
Your thoughts...? Shout `em out in the comments.