It's time for new faces and voices in wine. For many years we have all been following the writing, commentary and views of pretty much the same critics, reviewers and voices when it comes to wine. This isn't just a US phenomena, it's global.
The wine world follows the same people, and in turn their power has been preserved. Perhaps the best thing to happen was the changing of the guard at The Wine Advocate, where Robert Parker sold the publication, and in turn escalated the ascension to the top of the wine heap of other critics. In doing so more wines are being reviewed, and deeper understanding is coming forth to the readership.
But that's not enough.
Too much of the wine industry suffers from sheep mentality. What wines get reviewed. What their scores were and who in turn buys, sells and collects the wines. That's old school at its finest. What's more, dare to cross swords with the old guard, not pay homage to the self-anointed, and watch how fast one gets shunted off to the side.
But the biggest challenge the wine industry has is the lack of a voice of the millennial wine buying audience.
To that end, the industry is so stuck with tradition of going back to the same critics, fawning for scores and coverage, while at the same time being hamstrung by archaic laws and regulation in many countries that wine is stuck in a time warp, not moving at light speed in a world that now has the equivalent of the real-time continuum.
Add in the fact that wine reps are overworked, underpaid, can't possibly present and sell every wine in their portfolio. They in turn then run up against egotistical sommeliers and wine buyers who think a tasting appointment is akin to having scheduled open heart surgery, where time is of the essence and you have an industry that is so full of legends in their own minds, that one is forgetting the fact that wine is something to be enjoyed. And like so many things that are born of sin, often that enjoyment comes with the passing of time, not on a schedule, and not by the clock.
The rapid, lightning pace that drives the flow of information today is made possible by the web, social media, apps and most of all the people themselves who can share details of their wine experiences, This speed jump is making the "waiting for review issue" to arrive irrelevant, as at some point in time reading the review is like watching the highlights after the game has been played.
You see, trusting your own palate is as much like watching a baseball game live. And, with technology today, and the ability to share that experience using the apps and web pages of today, allows for the information about a wine to leap well ahead of its country by country availability, and even be known of before it hits the list of some posh restaurant or the shelf of a local merchant.
This rise of immediate information flow is also leading directly to the soon to be seen meteoric growth of more DTC -Direct To Consumer sale of wine, and with it, an even greater need for the voice of the millennial generation. Those millennials have more of a thirst to know more about it "now" and want to hear from the voices they'll trust, not from the sources they don't. And part of that comes with the ability to relate the critic or reviewer, not someone who is old enough to be their grandparent.
These new youthful voices are the "advocates of change,"and they are the rising opinion leaders who go past the "what's new" or the old trusted method of telling the story based only on the old and tired approach of "release and review."
Today, the new mouths and minds of wine, that can speak to the the millennial generation are who is needed to provide that fresh perspective on wines. Not only in what they drink, but also in what they want to collect. To get there, these new voices need to live and be well versed in the concept of "Taste, Touch and Tell."
"Taste, Touch and Tell" is about the experience of having the wine cross one's lips, preferably in the wines native environment, at the winery, or with the winemaker, and then to hear a story that can be told and retold as if the winemaker was telling the story. It means delivering IPO--Insight, Perspective and Opinion. For these wine personalities, it's the story they tell about the wine, not the scores that sets them apart. And in doing so, it will make them far more important to the millennial wine consumer, as the communicate to them, the way they want to be informed, not told.
As part of "Taste, Touch and Tell" the articulation of the story behind the wine, the winery, the visit, that first taste, the history and the passion has to be front and center. It's no longer about massive tastings, where hundred of wines are lined up and scored. It's about that one wine, at that one time, and what it's like that matters. It's the visit to the vineyard, and learning the story behind it. It's going inside the winery, and tasting parts of the wine before it's been assembled and then coming back a year or two later and tasting the finished wine. It's hearing the tales of winemakers who passion is art, not science. It's the recollection of the different wines tasted from a single region and being able to compare and contrast one producers' wines from the next. Most of all it's the ability to weave the story based on what's been tasted, who's been touched and what's been told.
Today, we have the power and the potential to have more wine voices tell the stories. No longer are we limited to the anointed few voices who tell the many. Instead we now have the power and potential to have the many tell those who want to know. Not only will there be more voices, but the stories of more wines will be told by more people to more people, over more mediums than in the past. The audience of the "who" are those that have the same interests and palates and will choose the means in how they discover the wines they want to taste, buy and collect (TBC).
These are the New Tellers of Taste. The Shapers of Shopping and the Communicators of Collectors.
So I say, its time for the old to lay the path for the new, and to be the ones who tell the stories about these new voices. In turn its time for they to take their place, while empowering and enabling their future successors to have the opportunity to tell more about more, so more know more, based, not on how the old guard only scored a wine, but on the merits and tenants of "Taste, Touch and Tell."