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Don’t Drink Your Own Wine?

Are you making a mistake drinking your own wine?

Nigel Green of New Zealand’s Felton Road has a visceral piece on “growing up” in wine.

Before long I had discovered a remarkable world: one perhaps unique in commerce. In any other profession we would be rivals, but in wine there was a spirit of comradeship, not competition. Everybody would help everybody else. It is, I think, a fairly recent phenomenon born of two unusual quirks. Firstly, in the world of good wine, one is not saying to a customer ‘buy my wine, not theirs’. Our customers drink many, many different wines, so they can enjoy both. By enthusing to the customer, we sell not just our wine, but our colleagues’ wines as well. I remember once swapping places with a notable Burgundy producer, and I poured and talked to his wine while he did the same for mine.

Nigel goes on to share how inter-connected wine is. How many winemakers and viticulturalists are international? And of those from BC, how many spent worthwhile time learning in other wine regions? How many junkets and trips and work exchanges there are…

But he’s concerned its changing. 

These [second-career] arrivals tend to come from worlds where collaboration with the competition is an alien concept. They are shy of their relative inexperience. Crucially, while they may have drunk plenty of ‘what they like’, they are lacking in a broad experience of the wines of the world. It is a hard and lonely place from which to begin.

There is a pejorative description of wine producers, sometimes used by their peers, that most people outside that group don’t hear: ‘Oh, they drink their own wine.’

Ooof.

(Part of) the argument is that drinking your own wine creates cognitive biases. The wine becomes safe, you become familiar with it. And your brain tells you (tricks you?) into thinking that whatever you have consumed much of, well, it must be ok. You become comfortable.

Your palate becomes lazy. Or in Nigel’s terms: you develop “cellar palate”.

I’ll go right out and say it – this is a problem in BC. We drink too much of our own wine. We don’t explore enough, and in our (justified) zeal to promote our wine and BC wine we  become the wine version of shut-ins. 

The last word to Nigel:

So we have a double danger: a delusion that our wine is much better than it really is, combined with a significant reduction in exploring the wider world of wine. The solution is simple and becomes joyful. Limit consumption of any wine you make to an occasional taste rather than a drink, reserving those occasions when you do serve your wine to those that are professionally unavoidable. When you do want wine to drink, drink as widely as is possible. Focus on benchmarking the greatest range of styles and origins you can.

Twenty years on, the two best lessons I have learned? Don’t drink your own wine and go to as many tastings as you possibly can, wherever they may be. It’s not about selling wine, it’s about being a part of your new world.

You can read the full article here. And please let me know your thoughts – do you think this is an issue? Or is Nigel making a mountain of a molehill? e

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