Wine X Vol 2.5
by Kristi Munns
This essay is the third in a series voicing the concerns of wine consumers and industry professionals regarding the marketing of wine to minorities and alternative-lifestyle groups. With the rich cross-section of cultures and lifestyles in this country, common sense dictates that marketers of any product must acknowledge each potential market and react accordingly. However, mainstream wine marketing seems intent on focusing in on a small demographic of affluent white male collectors. Why?Why is the wine industry concentrating on this already saturated market when statistics reflect that 55 to 60 percent of wine purchases in the United States are made by women? When one of the fastest growing segments of the upper-middle class with disposable income is African American? When experts say sales could double or triple to the gay and lesbian community if only the industry would show some interest by advertising in their publications or participating in their events?
Our goal here at Wine X is to reach out to ALL young adult consumers, regardless of ethnic origin and/or lifestyle choice, with the message that wine is for everyone, not just upper-middle class, aging white male collectors. We understand that 10 percent of our generation is gay; 13 percent African American, 12 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Asian and 1 percent Native American, and we realize that these vastly ignored demographics constitute about thirty million potential wine consumers. Thus, we aim to reflect as much diversity in content as possible, including forums such as this one.
By continually presenting a different and new point of view, maybe we can help the industry find a place for wine in every household throughout America. Now that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, would it?
I enjoy wine. I enjoy all kinds of wine. That’s right, I like all the colors: red, white and pink. Excuse my annoying ignorance and lack of shame, but I just turned twenty-one this year and I haven’t yet learned the delicacies of this oh-so-complex beverage.You see, my story is the same as many of those of my generation. We fumble clumsily with wine and other alcohols in high school, hoping just to get a feel of the intoxicating effects, never thinking about involving our sensitive tongue buds.
Since coming out of high school I’ve been amazed at the variety of liquor available. Who knew that sherry, port, flavored vodka and ice wines even existed. Every stop at the grocery store for alcohol is an adventure, and now that I’m of the legal age the bars are my playground. No, I’m not another one of those crazy, out-of-control college students (okay, maybe occasionally) but I have respect for alcohol. Fortunately for me, my family was generous with drinking knowledge and encouraged me to try different things. My mom liked to stick glasses of wine in my face saying, “Take a sip of this.” We would share wine coolers and laughs out in the backyard. Not to mention the few times I nipped at her TV drink, Kahlua and cream. Grandma was good for flavored liqueurs with her counter of crystal decanters and beautiful bottles. I remember so clearly the sweet taste of mango liqueur. Grandpa thought it was funny that I would drink from his beer bottle. But damn it, German beer was good even when I was a kid.
A large part of my respect for alcohol comes from my childhood and adolescence of sampling, along with a couple nauseating nights spent over a toilet whispering “sweet God.” One side of my family is from Germany and that accounts for their lax attitude towards alcohol. Those Europeans love their liquor and so should we. They did the best they could have done for me, because when I reached high school I wasn’t into using alcohol as a weapon of rebellion. In fact, I didn’t have my first drunken escapade until senior year in a hotel room with a bottle of Boone’s Strawberry Hill on prom night. That was a night to remember. Too bad I can’t.
College continued my path of alcohol corruption with kegs of cheap beer, jungle juice and tequila shots. Jello shots were as classy as it got at a time when I was taking swigs straight from a vodka bottle, a vodka bottle with a dead fish on the label. That tells you how smart I was. Liquor wasn’t chosen for flavor or texture, but for the amount of alcohol it contained. The hardest decision was: am I in the mood to get wasted slowly, which meant beer or wine, or do I want a swift kick to the blood vessels with vodka or tequila? Having drinks with a friend meant having a friend put a sombrero hat on my head at a party and order me to chug some tequila.
I think the change took place somewhere in my second year at college. For the first time I had my own apartment and had pierced my nose. I was feeling pretty grown up. My roommate and I began to have dinner parties where a bottle wine would show up as our symbol of our maturity. Not to say that by this time I had abandoned the Slam Jam, a tasty drink of grape soda and vodka blended with ice because I hadn’t. It was my roommate’s specialty. But I did enjoy sipping inexpensive wine in thrift store goblets.
A couple years and many drinks later I find myself here, at a transition period. An exciting time of discovery. I’ve learned names like pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, syrah, and I’ve even mastered their pronunciation. I’ve tried drinks such as the Cosmopolitan and Sex on the Beach. I feel hip in the bar scene. No longer do I stumble towards the bartender in nervousness about ordering. I may not be sophisticated, but I can fake it with bar stool bravado. I find a good glass of wine with dinner satisfying and soothing after a long day. But I also find wine wonderful when served with experimental food combinations. Take for instance chardonnay with sugar cookies while watching “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” what a combo. Learning more about the wine industry, I have decided that I don’t want to blindly adhere to wine rules. I don’t want to be dictated to. I’m not going to be snooty or pretentious when I drink wine. Wine can be just as cool as I am, just as glamorous as me and just as alternative as my life may get. Who really cares about the one nostril sniff test anyway?
I still have many liquors to learn about and much more experimenting before me. I want to try the exotic tastes of Chianti, port and semillon. I have many drinks to go with the chocolate martini next on my list, and an oatmeal cookie shot close behind. I like being part of the adult drinking world. It still trips me out that I can brazenly walk up to a store counter and with a flash of my ID, purchase anything I want. What a wonderful world.
Wine and other alcohols are friendly, legal vices that I’m becoming buddy-buddy with daily. There’s no reason that alcohols like wine should be intimidating or snobby. It’s a classically cool drink for the eternally classy drinker. That’s what I am, an up and coming connoisseur of alcohol, not simply a chugger of sloppy juice anymore. I revel in the numerous tastes and textures of various alcohols. I, unlike people who have forgotten what it’s like to be a alcohol virgin, am having fun with it.