Reading Cathy Marston’s article about her attitude towards wine education got me thinking about the way that we, as producers, approach the subject. One of the coolest shifts in the South African (and international) wine scene over the last ten years has been how much of the pretension around wine has started to be broken down. The perception that fine wine is an elitist drink or the preserve of the wealthy has been largely changed and the industry is all the better for it.

The internet, social media and the ease of access to information has played a huge role in the broader interest in wine among younger people. At the cellar door we have seen a marked increase in the number of 20-somethings engaging with, enjoying and purchasing wine across all price points. Young winemakers are more vocal on their brands and have allowed consumers to engage directly with the farms and cellars.

One of the most important aspects of this shift has been an improvement in so-called wine education. We’re not really fans of the word ‘education’ in this context, and prefer to engage with consumers and guests in an open conversation. But it can’t be denied that the average wine drinker knows more about what is in their glass than they would have 10 years ago. From a winery’s point of view, providing information on the production process and the unique attributes of your particular vineyard or wine, is an opportunity to not only create an ambassador for your own brand but also to entrench the interest of a new wine drinker. Most producers work hard to engage with consumers directly and add their own flavour to the general education around wine. We want to encourage wine lovers to try new brands, styles and varietals as well as to enjoy wine responsibly as a part of their lifestyle.

As much as we would like to see wine as a commodity, and part of our day to lives, in reality it remains an indulgence for most, especially when you are talking about higher priced bottles. If I were an economist I’d probably have something insightful to say about luxury purchases versus necessity ones. But I’m not.

How one enjoys a luxury purchase is also up to the individual.

Two people could both own a Ferrari 599s and derive equal pleasure from it. But the one may want to understand the inner workings of its engine, suspension and steering technology while the other simply likes the feeling that they get when behind the wheel.

Two cricket fans can support their team with equal passion – one analyzing the technique of the batsmen and bowlers while the other is there for the atmosphere in the ground and the time shared with their friends.

And the same is true of wine. As producers it is important for us to balance the way that we engage with consumers. Wine lovers can be just as loyal and supportive of your brand whether they want to know every detail of its production or not. It is up to us as producers to ensure that those who represent our brands are equipped with both the knowledge to discuss the secrets of the cellar and the understanding to engage with consumers for whom that is not a part of why they enjoy wine.

So what type of wine drinker are you? Do you want to know all the facts about the vineyard, vintage, fermentation and philosophy behind what is in your glass? Or do you enjoy wine purely for the sensory experience that it offers you and how it fits into your social life.

Let us know your thoughts in our comments section and you may stand the chance of winning a case of Fairview wines (information booklet optional!)

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1 Comment on Is it what you know, or what you nose?

  1. A hard question to answer, as I see myself as both! First and foremost, wine is a sensory experience as you put it – it’s for enjoyment. But a fair share of my enjoyment is understanding why I like a particular wine so much, or ‘meditating’ over the aroma, bouquet and length. You can only meditate over a thought such as ‘It tastes like berries’ so far. More knowledge = more vocabulary = more to enjoy!
    So I have done two Cape Wine Academy courses (excellent foundation) and am currently loving Cathy Marston’s Wine Course … a short write-up to come out soon.
    My opinion – just enjoy it. If you want to learn more, learn more – it’s easy and fun. If you just want to drink it, cheers!

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