My daughter, a student at UT Austin, is home for a couple of weeks and two of her Texas college friends visited us on a summer road trip from San Francisco to Austin. Since these kids are of drinking age I invited them to Talley Vineyards for wine tasting and a tour, a new experience for both.
We started in the tasting room so I could acquaint them with Talley Vineyards and get a sense of the wines they like. I wanted to tailor the tasting to their preferences and maybe introduce them to some wines they’d never tried. It’s a pleasure for me to initiate newbies to wine as it’s been a love of mine for many years.
I started my daughter’s friends off with Bishop’s Peak Sauvignon Blanc and immediately one of them said, “This is probably a stupid question, but what does Sauvignon Blanc mean?” I did not find the question stupid and was happy to explain grape varieties and how they make wines that taste different from one another. As we continued the wine tasting and toured the winery for the next hour, I loved the many questions they had. But they always started with “this is probably a dumb question…” or “I know this is stupid of me to ask…”
And that got me thinking, why is wine so intimidating?
The intimidation factor is not a part of discovering beer. The major craft beer boom of the past few years has brought us Saisons, Hazys, IPAs, Double IPAs, Nitro Stouts and on and on. I visit a lot of craft breweries and I’ve never heard anyone start a question about beer with, “I know this might be dumb of me, but…” They simply ask without fear of judgement.
Does the anxiety about looking dumb stem from how we as an industry present the product, with the whole swirl, sniff, suck in air method? Is it that we offer descriptors of the wine’s aromas and taste, so people feel stupid if they don’t pick up on them? Is it the “We shall sell no wine before it’s time” advertising? I don’t know the answer, but I do feel that as an industry we have failed to create an unintimidating atmosphere for our new customers. The sad thing is, I’ve been drinking wine for many years, I’ve asked lots of questions of many different winemakers and tasting room staff, and I’ve never been made to feel dumb; so the actual experience of tasting is very different from the perception.
Like I said, I’m not sure how to fix the problem, but I encourage you to not fall victim to that feeling of intimidation. When you come out to Talley Vineyards, please come filled with questions about wine, wine making, growing, or anything else. There are no dumb questions and our exceptional and friendly tasting room staff will gladly enlighten and encourage you.