Seeing the world through the lens of a wine glass.
That’s my essential approach to writing about wine, and my “go-to gut check” when facing a challenging topic. What are the bigger-picture themes that we can appreciate either more clearly or in a more nuanced way, if we use wine as an entry point of conversation? Responses to that question have led to articles about topics as far-ranging as healthcare for farm workers to marijuana in wine country to sexism in the industry to ten confounding things that men in wine have said to me recently.
Big picture themes indeed, though understood through the microcosm of wine.
Today marks the mid-way point of 2022. It’s an opportune moment to look back over the topics covered in this column so far this year, and assess which articles and stories have struck a chord with readers. I’m measuring “struck a chord” less in terms of most-clicked pieces and more in terms of a quieter reverberation. Less sensationalism, more nuance. Less knee-jerk reaction, more thoughtful slow burn.
Not surprisingly, the after-effects and consequences of COVID take center stage. COVID sent the industry and its people into a tailspin; we are still recalibrating, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. You’ll find multiple variations of COVID’s impact in the list below, from women industry veterans transitioning careers to the juggling of major trade shows to wistful memories of wine country visits when they were far easier to navigate. For this Forbes audience, wine investment is a compelling topic, maybe even moreso as we face a global economic slowdown. This audience, perhaps as they search for a diamond in the rough, is also curious about “non-headliner” grapes from lesser-known regions, and they (you) want to understand thoroughly why their sommelier or retailer cares enough to suggest it. Finally, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine casts a long shadow of grief and anxiety, which finds its expression also in wine.
The link to each article is included in the list below. I hope that they reverberate with you also, in a thoughtful, slow-burn kind of way.
COVID. Of Course.
The pandemic has presented, and continues to present, a kaleidoscope of impact on wine business. Some obvious repercussions include the rescheduling of major international trade fairs (and their fallout). Longer-tail consequences include veteran women leaders transitioning their careers and learning to monetize their intellectual property, and also the gleeful release of pent-up demand for travel, as illustrated by a love letter to driving in Tuscan wine country and another one to missing wine people themselves.
Wine as Investment
As the reality of a global economic slowdown looms, wine enthusiasts and collectors look to secure their assets. The two-part series in March about wine investment struck an early chord for readers, partly from the critical commentary implicit in Lisa Perotti-Brown MW’s co-founding of The Wine Independent publication, and partly from a behind-the-scenes look at the investors involved in the initiative.
Diamonds in the Rough
Hand-in-hand with an interest in wine investment, perhaps, goes an interest in finding “the new thing.” For wine people, that could mean an off-the-beaten path region with a non-headliner grape, such as a fine Merlot from Paso Robles on California’s Central Coast. “The new thing” might also be found in the wine scene of “B-list” cities (which happen to be A+ destinations for wine lovers in the know), or it could be found in the words of sommeliers or retailers explaining why they care so much about an unusual wine.
Wine writers took to their screens, cameras and audio devices to detail the far-reaching impacts on our industry of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. For me, the in-person return of the Vinitaly trade fair in Verona in April was an opportunity to witness Italians’ personal and historical relationship with the people of Ukraine, and how they are responding to calls for help with humanitarian assistance.
June 30 signifies the mid-way point of the year, and it’s interesting to pause for perspective on the themes that struck a chord so far. But each of these four themes will continue to impact the wine industry and wine enthusiasts for the months to come.