The article, and subsequent comments, about Millennial wine drinkers have got me a little hot and bothered, and I'd like to talk about why.
Without getting too much into the original article, which is its own ball of wax, I'd like to segue into something I'm seeing pop up amongst the commentariat: the idea that wine should be cheap.
This is a pretty common idea for lots of products, not just wine. We live in a disposable world, folks. People buy cheap clothes, and cheap furniture, and cheap stuff in general. And I think that's reasonable for most people. Most people have not-limitless amounts of cash, and have to prioritize spending. Shit, I shop at Ikea. I like Ikea.
But when I shop at Ikea, I know those products are not the best. My Ikea table will not be handmade by an artisan. And the person who is making those tables is not getting paid that well. I live with that, because I'm not getting paid that well (which is why I'm shopping for a hypothetical table at Ikea).
I think people need to be more aware of this connections. When someone says:
"...won't pay more than $20 for a bottle of wine."
It's cute they think we'd pay that much. *
And then someone asks/says — because let's be real, there's some sass here —
Does it actually get better after $15 a bottle or so? [...] How many people regularly pay over $20 a bottle, and are they actually deluded enough to think that they are getting a better product, or are they just rich enough to want to pay for a little extra pretension? *
I say FUCK YEAH IT GETS BETTER. On a technical level, it gets better: better barrels, more time spent aging (slower production is more expensive), more sustainable practices like not using chemical pesticides leading to higher quality fruit, planting fewer grapes per acre (higher quality fruit, again), using minimal-to-no machine processing, so many things I won't list them all.
But that's really secondary, that's just technical. That's just GOOD WINE YUM.
You know who it really FUCK YEAH gets better for? THE WORKERS. The people I know who pick all the grapes by hand and then push down the caps by hand and then rack the wines, yeah you got it, by motherfucking hand.
BECAUSE REAL SUSTAINABILITY MEANS MORE THAN PROTECTING THE DIRT AND THE WATER. It means protecting the people. The people whose literal blood, sweat, and tears are mixed in to the wine on the daily. Paying workers a living wage in expensive areas, like — oh, ALL OF CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY — is not cheap. It is not a $2 bottle of Chuck.
I'm happy to acknowledge the truth: For some people wine is just a "get drunk quick/cheap scheme," and I know that. But when someone pops in to a conversation and claims to have experience working for a winery, and then says, idiotically:
I think a lot of people pay a premium for mediocre wine because they don't know any better, and pretension can factor in, as well. Personally, I'm loath to pay more than $15 for wine unless it's something I know is worth the extra $$, and even then, I never spend more than $30. What few quality returns exist really diminish after the $25 mark. *
That burns me. Because I might be wrong, but that doesn't sound like a cellarhand or a fieldworker talking to me. That sounds like an intern, or a tasting room host, or any other job where an attractive young privileged person would work. I don't think those are hands stained with juice that I see, and if they were, it's since washed off. That person has upward mobility.
That person is not passionate about grapes, singing to them in soft Spanish in the morning in the deep fog as they prune acres of vines slowly by hand.
When you buy a wine from a winery that costs more than $30 a bottle, more often that not that does make it back to the workers. Especially if it's a family-owned winery, especially if it's in the US. You don't have to spend your money that way, but if you choose to, know that anything over $25 is not a rip off. You are supporting artists.
I took these pictures, by the way. I'm speaking from a place of experience.