I’ve gotten this question a lot lately when I transitioned from my previous position to working in a field where my knowledge base consisted of “I like it.”. But Blair… Keith is the sommelier, why are you posting your thoughts about wine? Because I wanted to give others a little insight to my every day. Here is my view on the most intriguing industry I’ve gotten to be a part of, from a former outsider looking in.
Wine has withstood the test of time. It has been around since biblical times and it isn’t going anywhere. The more I learn about the subject the less I feel like I know, and by that I mean, when I learn one thing, it seems like there are ten different variations of the same thing. There are very few absolutes in wine. It is the one, all encompassing product that I’ve seen that spans every area of study. To completely understand wine, you must know about agriculture, chemistry, economics, geography, history, hospitality, and art.
Agriculture – We posted on Instagram last week about the benefits of having other herbs planted around the vines to extract humidity from the soil to make sure all the nutrients are going to the grape. Grape vines don’t need perfect soil that would help other plants flourish. In fact, they need soil that isn’t as fertile so that the roots have to grow down deep into the soil to create healthier vines. The first time I heard this, it seemed counterintuitive to me, but it was fascinating.
Chemistry – Each grape varietal that grows has a specific make up that tells the grower the perfect time for harvesting the grape and the natural balance that each wine should have when it is in the finished bottle. Now there are a ton of different ways to achieve that to get a unique taste for a wine but knowing and understanding that chemistry is a huge part of the winemaking process.Economics – Winemakers have to think through supply-chain to understand what their wine would sell for on the shelf to make sure they are coming up with a price that fits their target market. Too high or too low and their wine might not sell at all. Then they have to think about their cost and if it makes sense for them to sell their wine at that price based on their labor and materials used to harvest the grapes.
Geography – Winemakers have to think through what varietals thrive in their geographic location. If you live a valley vs. a desert, how will that impact which varietals are planted? This has been one of the coolest parts of my job so far. We have seen so many different places that have fantastic wine with totally different geographies.History – You have to understand which regions are historically known for producing which wine. There are of course, international varieties that come from all over but there have been some really unique wines that are only grown in certain parts of the world. The wineries who can tell you the story about how their wines got there or who have a rich history helps you feel a connection to the wine before you ever take a sip!
Hospitality – once the wine is made and bottle it can be served in a restaurant. The staff working must understand and care for their consumers or they might make a wrong recommendation. Certain wine pairs well with certain food but if I can’t stand big, bold reds, the right meal might not change my mind. I’ve gotten to witness conversations between staff and consumers to find the best wine fit, not just for food but that would be the most enjoyable for the drinkers.
Art – while there is a certain amount of hard science that must take place through the growing process there is also an art to it. There is an art to making the wine. There is an art to understanding what would market well in a liquor store. There is an art to selling the wine. There is an art to drinking the wine. Throughout this whole process the best wine experiences are complimented by the artists who create, market, sell and drink the wine. That’s what makes this whole industry so exhilarating for me. Keith and I are in the art of connecting people and we are fortunate enough to get to use wine as the medium. It still sometimes feels like trying to get a drink of water from a firehose but I thoroughly enjoy getting to be a part of the process and meeting wonderful artist every step of the way.
All of these, are my answer to “Why the wine industry?” Until next time…