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Millennials and the confidence of the palate

Wine Market Council 2012 report

Confidence is one thing, but that 71 percent number is something else entirely.

Dear Millennials:

Almost no one who writes about wine respects you as much as I do – in fact, I’m in the middle of a trade magazine story detailing the massive changes you’ll bring to the wine business.

But even I had to giggle when the new Wine Market Council study reported that 7 out of 10 of you who drink wine at least once a week said you could “correctly differentiate a glass of merlot from a glass of cabernet sauvignon.”

That’s saying a lot. For one thing, the two wines can taste quite similar, especially given that one goal of post-modern winemaking is to eliminate the qualities that make them different. For another, I often have trouble telling the difference between cabernet and merlot — and I’ve been drinking wine for a long time.

In this, I’d love to do a blind tasting – for money, of course, because I have all these expenses – to see if you can really do it. I’d enjoy being proved wrong, though I doubt that would happen. It’s one thing to wax poetic about wine at the dinner table with your friends, and something altogether different when a bunch of people are waiting for you to demonstrate the acuity of your palate.

Yet, having said all this, I’m quite impressed that so many of you are so confident about wine. It’s not something that we’ve always seen in the past from younger wine drinkers, who are usually more worried about using a corkscrew than about what the wine tastes like. No doubt this is yet another way in which you’ll change the wine business. I guess I need to figure out to work that into my story.

6 Responses to Millennials and the confidence of the palate

  1. Louisvillejuice@gmail.com' Tom Johnson says:

    At what we will call “a leading symposium for professional wine writers” a couple of years ago, I sat in a blind tasting with about a dozen leading writers — names you would know and mostly respect, except for one.
    Anyway, the person leading the tasting put up glass after glass of red wine, and had us discuss the wi e k owing nothing about it. Of about ten wines, the brain trust in that room correctly identified the grape variety only once. We waxed eloquent about all the wines; we just did so incorrectly. The wine writer who you would no doubt scorn gave a significant dissertation about a Rioja Crianza and how it typified what was great about Spanish reds. I turned out to be, as I recall, a Rhone blend from Paso Robles.
    There’s entirely too much emphasis placed on parlor tricks like grape identification. Managed “correctly” in the winery, just about any grape can be made to resemble just about any other grape. Millinials may pride themselves on their discernment; they’ll grow out of it. We all do.

  2. It’s not about 20-somethings; this is a function of the time-tested wine exposure curve. If you crossed this data with info about how long people had been drinking, you would find the same numbers, but based on length of exposure to wine and wine tasting. As with many things, the more you know, the more you know you’ll never know. And I say that as a winemaker :) I say give them a break and give them time to enjoy what they enjoy. Better that than to be a member of the forgotten Gen X ;)

  3. swnelson22@yahoo.com' Steve Nelson says:

    I accept your challenge!

  4. splatt8987@comcast.net' Brian Platt says:

    Well Wine Curmudgeon, I will take all of the money you care to wager. Let’s pour ten wines, five cab and fiver merlot, and I will wager that you cannot correctly categorize 80% (8 of 10). I pick the wines.
    I’ll go one better – I will wager that you cannot pick red wines from white with 100% accuracy in a blindfolded tasting. I have seen world class tasters lose that bet. Again, I pick the wines.

  5. junk@knoxpatch.com' Adrian says:

    When I first read the statistics I felt bad, thinking my wine identification skills were apparently lacking. Then I read the rest of the article. Heh…

  6. Jeff Siegel says:

    Thanks for all of the comments. I’m impressed at your confidence.
    And Brian, I know I can’t tell the difference between caberent and merlot. That was the point of the post. I’m not even sure I’d get 100 percent on the white vs. red, though you’ve given me a great idea for another blog post.

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