With some exciting shop news this week, here’s a quick reminder of the value of your local merchant.
The Internet is king. Today it’s so easy to be able to do everything online: order your shopping, do your banking, watch TV, chat, make friends, build relationships, all without the need to leave your house and come face-to-face with another person. The truth is, that we all want things fast and having to talk to a physical human being just slows things down; all you want is some loo roll because you’re desperate and you’re collared by Janet from three doors down, who starts to tell you all about her long weekend away last month to Llandudno with her gal pals. Thanks Janet, but there are more pressing matters at hand and the truth is I’ve been avoiding you for the last three weeks to try and sidestep this exact conversation!
With that in mind, where does that leave the wine professional?
Wine is subject matter that can’t, and shouldn’t, be rushed. From the yearlong winemaking process, to the sheer complexity of understanding the what’s what of it all, wine is by design best enjoyed when everything is slowed down and savoured. Most people, as we’ve seen, haven’t got the time or the inclination to delve in to the bottomless pit that is Wine Education, but they do still want to enjoy the best wine for them possible. This is where the wine professional comes in!
Whether it’s your local wine merchant or a sommelier at a restaurant, their job is to take the time to listen to what wine you normally enjoy, the things that normally make you tick and then to guide you through the labyrinth to a single bottle that you can bet your bottom dollar you will enjoy. As you become a regular customer you can start to build up a relationship with them and they can then start to introduce you to varied grape types and styles, giving you the opportunity to taste wines that you would never punt for on your own, with the comfort of knowing that a wine professional with all their expertise has picked this out for you, and you alone.
Unfortunately, there is one thing that puts this at risk. You’ve probably seen them if you’ve stepped foot in any kind of wine-related establishment within the last couple of years. They’re big and silver, look flashy with their perfect lighting and LED touch screens: it’s the ‘wine vending machine’, Enomatic, or By The Glass, whatever you wish to call them, you know what I’m talking about.
Now these machines certainly have a purpose, and tomorrow you’ll be able to read on this very blog all the reasons to be justifiably excited about the prospect of a new one. But, allow me to just take a second to make one small point about them.
Walking into a wine shop or wine bar, and straight to a faceless machine that is unable to tell you the story behind a wine, or answer any of your questions, deal with your problems, listen to your stories about that great Pinot Grigio you drank with your own gal pals on a long weekend in Llandudno last month, is not, for me, what wine is all about. A glass of wine is there to be enjoyed with company and great conversation, it’s an experience that should be given the time it deserves and savoured. Let us never lose sight of that.
I’m not a Luddite or technophobe. I see great value, and profound need, for the wine industry to embrace the modern age and appeal to a modern day consumer. But I am here to make a plea that your friendly local wine merchant is not kicked into the gutter as a result.
Pour yourself a glass of something, allow a robotic wine friend to do it for you if you please, but then take a moment to wander over to that person behind the counter, ask ‘Could you tell me a bit more about what I’m drinking?’ and keep that ‘tradition’ alive.
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