“So, what do you study?” Probably my favourite question to answer as a wine student and self-proclaimed oenophile. The response is always better than you’d expect. Particularly when your audience consists of some not-so-innocent, first year females. As fantastic as this initial exchange is, however, it’s often difficult to keep the flow going and the conversation almost always fades into something tragically trivial. Heart-breaking, isn’t it? To confess, I do sometimes enter these chats with intentions showing a strong varietal character of unsavouriness (sue me!). Nonetheless, as students in the beautiful town of Stellenbosch, one would think the student’s attitudes toward the omnipresent wine culture would be slightly more embracive.
Why? I ask myself. South Africa, as a wine region, is slowly but surely being dragged out of the dark ages. Those leading the charge are eccentric, they’re innovative, and they don’t seem to give a flying finch for the conservative boundaries laid down by the market-pleasing, monopolising co-ops of days gone by. These emerging mavericks of the wine industry really are bringing sexy back, and re-crafting our country’s wine identity. What’s not to get excited about?!
A significant problem, I think, is that people still haven’t a clue how to articulate the aroma and taste of a wine, in a personal way. Partly a confidence thing, and partly because wine enthusiasts have, over the decades, been led to believe that there’s a particular decorum one needs to respect when expressing one’s thoughts on a glass of wine. Rubbish, I tell you! There isn’t. Now grow a pair, have a sip, and for heaven’s sake tell us what you think it’s like!
No self-respecting member of the young working generation is out of the loop in terms of beverage trends. The most obvious point that comes to mind… craft beer! With the explosion of this market, a far larger portion of the population are finally getting some much-needed exposure to a little variety on the liquor front. Although I’d prefer if it were wine, I reckon it’s a step in the right direction. It forces us to interact with what we’re chucking down our gullets. There are few things in life, in my humble opinion, which satisfies one’s soul more than being conscious of what your senses are telling you. I may be starting to sound like a ponce, but in reality, you can’t fault my claim in saying that memories are solidified in the mind if there’s an extra sensual reference.
With that in mind, I don’t think it’s that bad of an idea if people start exchanging memories aroused by a bottle of wine, as opposed to some nauseatingly generic descriptors. This may not be in line with what we, as wine students, are trained to think. But it’s definitely a way to make the perceived ‘art’ of wine-tasting a little more accessible to your average Joe.
If I hear one more chap tell me that his un-wooded Chardonnay has a very pronounced fruity bouquet, I might just have to drown myself in a tank of coffee Pinotage. The world of wine was forged by imagination and mankind’s undying love for getting a little tipsy. Why try and apply some superfluous structure to such primal inclinations? Let your emotions out, I beg you. Don’t be shy!