How do you consume wine?

Wine is quintessentially anthropomorphic – it is imbued with humanlike characteristics, motivations, intentions, or emotions.

Epley et al. 2007

Wine is experimental, social, cultural and can be educational. Wine is, after all, a definitively human phenomenon, made by people for people to experience and joy. The main question of this post is how do you consume wine but also how and why do you behave in certain way choosing and tasting a wine. Is there any chance that your choices are being influenced by issues outside of you and not related to the taste itself?

What I strongly believe is the educational side of wine. Once you start consuming wine, it’s like you’re on an endless journey. Everyone asks basic questions about the wine they are drinking. Questions like from where the wine comes from, or the grape variety, or the year. Even if they don’t know what exactly the real meaning and implications of the answers.

Do you believe that knowing the history of wine in general, knowing how it is made, having even a basic notion of different styles will help you better appreciate it? And knowing that virtually every aspect of taste and aroma in wine can be chemically manipulated and adjusted? Will this affect your final experience when choosing, tasting and understanding a wine?

Personally, all of these aspects significantly affect my overall tasting experience. When I began my journey of wine knowledge I had no idea how vast this world is and how uncertain and doubtful the liquid inside the bottle can be. In general, knowing more about how a particular wine was made, whether it is made by hand or industrially, makes me change my perception of quality. Today I prefer a wine made by hand, respecting the characteristics of the grape in the vineyard. I believe 95% of the quality of a wine depends on how healthy the fruit is in the vineyard.

I don’t like to feel influenced by marketing, beautiful labels or fictional stories about the tradition of a particular product. I like to understand how what I consume was made and why those characteristics of color, texture, aroma and taste are present in the wine I am consuming. Maybe knowing all this you might stop finding faults in artisanal wine and, like me, you may find the perfection of chemically treated wine strange.

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Storytelling and the wine market.

Storytelling describes the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment. Every culture has its own stories or narratives, which are shared as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation or instilling moral values.

But what is the relationship between storytelling and the wine market? I believe we have to start by understanding what wine is in terms of product. I can simply define wine as an alcoholic beverage obtained from the fermentation of grape juice. It’s a very simple definition and very cold don’t you think?

I believe that the right definition of wine must bring with it all the historical burden, the tradition, the millennial cultural heritage, the bond with the territory, and so on. From all this together we can understand what wine really is and its importance in the history of mankind. Where I live, for example, wine is so ingrained in popular culture that even in my children’s elementary school math is taught using the vineyard and winemaking as a backdrop for operations.

For some peoples, wine is a ancient tradition that has always been there and is a fundamental part of the local culture and life of all. For others where there is no culture of wine production, only its consumption already brings the desire to understand what are the cultural differences and terroir of its production that make the wine of the same grape variety but different places have different characteristics.

In this context, over time the need has arisen to narrate for the consumer the link between tradition, history, territory, family, values, land, climate, among others, with the wine being consumed. From this was created the Wine Teller.

The fascist ultra-conservative speech in Brazil, the so-called “economic liberalism” and the Brazilian wine market

Brazil is experiencing an unprecedented crisis mainly because it strongly extrapolates the economic crisis and is bringing out a conservatism that was shrouded in population. Given the degree of ignorance of the majority, some ultra-conservative and even fascist appeals are finding echo in those less enlightened when it comes to civil liberties and human rights. However, for the consumption of wine I understand that it doesn’t matters. At least for those who can buy, since the policies of false economic liberalism currently practiced in Brazil are considerably affecting the consumption capacity of the middle class.

The fact is, with the exception of communities formed by European immigration as Italians, Portuguese and Germans, the consumption of wine is not a tradition in Brazil. The most consumed and popular alcoholic beverages in Brazil are still beer and cachaça. I believe that cachaça is the most similar in terms of tradition compared to wine nowadays. Cachaça is a distillate obtained from sugar cane produced practically throughout the Brazilian territory and has a great tradition since Brazil was a Portuguese colony.

But let’s go back to the wine. The consumption of wine in Brazil has been increasing every year. I believe currently the only obstacle to the popularization of wine consumption is the price of the product and the crises facing the country. According to Wine Intelligence study commissioned by IBRAVIN, about 32 million Brazilians said they had consumed wine in the last 30 days, 66 million said they had consumed wine in the last 6 months while 14 million said they consume wine daily.

In the eyes of the European who has an average per capita wine consumption of 40 liters per year, Brazilian numbers may not seem stimulating. However it is necessary to understand the market and take a look at the historical series so as not to be influenced by the 2 liters per capita consumed on average annually by Brazilians. Brazil is currently the 15th largest wine producer in the world and already exports its product to 59 countries. Let’s bet that the Brazilian market continues to advance and grow.

Sensory analysis, smell and social prejudice.

I was here thinking about how much my preferences have changed over the years regarding wines. Wine has always been present in my life. In my home my mother used to consume wine at meals on weekends and also when we received visits. As soon as I reached the legal drinking age, I began my journey into the fabulous and vast world of wine. The object of my analysis is delimited from the moment when wine becomes a common and frequent habit to the present day.

I was born and raised in Brazil, a country that has little tradition in wine, which is considered a luxury product, and its consumption is largely associated with social status. An important point is that wine in Brazil is expensive and not accessible to most of the population, unlike our neighbors Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. However, for those who have money enough, you can find wines from all over the globe.

From this we can make a correlation between the ordinary Brazilian consumer and Rousseau’s character Émile: we were born without preferences for wine and our society corrupts us with concepts that, for the most part, have nothing to do with the quality of the liquid we find inside the bottle. I am talking about social concepts ranging from the price of wine, specific colors, berries aromas to the shape of the bottle. For purposes of restricting the topic to this brief post, I will limit myself to the smell.

So I start with a simple question: How important is the smell of wine? I believe that everyone who starts drinking wine develops the habit of smelling it before drinking. I think this custom is first developed empathically simply by the fact that you begin to do so by trying to copy the constructed social stance of how to taste a wine. Just as you copy the act of swirling the wine glass. However, few can really explain why they do it.

Answering the question, for me the smell is the most important aspect in wine. Because it’s where we find and correlate affective memories and the elements of comparison with flowers, fruits, emotions, experiences, places, etc. I question also how our perception of smell is affected by predefined social constructions and aesthetic patterns? When you get a wine and, even before you open the bottle, you get the information the wine is a “natural” one, do you ever expect that the wine will have unwanted aromas?

Well, I need to confess that my perception of what a good wine is has changed a lot over the last 15 years. At first, when I heard that was a natural wine, I already imagined an unwanted smell of pasture. The fact is that I insisted and learned to understand and also to appreciate not so common aromas in wine. This change was motivated mainly by knowledge, that is, by understanding why a certain aspect of smell or taste is present in a wine and also the history of its evolution.

Today, I can say that I do not wrinkle my nose when I hear that I will taste a wine made from organic grapes, with natural and indigenous yeast. The world of wine is vast and this massification of taste and smell is extremely harmful, as it tends to extinguish everything that deviates from the industry’s predefined aesthetic standard.

Are PIWI grapes a Genetic Modified Organism (GMO)?

Sauvignier Gris

A few days ago after posting a few posts about PIWI grapes, a discussion began on LinkedIn whether or not PIWI grapes are considered a genetic modified organism or simply GMO. The controversy is important and pertinent because in some countries like Italy it is forbidden the cultivation of GMOs.

I soon went to study a little more because I wasn’t sure of my answer. At first it seemed not to me, because PIWI grapes are the result of crosses and selections, not DNA manipulations. But reading some other scholarly articles I wondered if recent research had inserted some varieties that could be the result of DNA manipulations and considered GMOs.

Between comings and goings, a light appears at the end of the tunnel. A fellow winemaker, Vagner Marchi, clarified for us that PIWI grapes can indeed be produced from manipulation and genetic modification, which would make the process of their generation much faster. However, the varieties grown so far have been produced exclusively from crosses of different species, basically Vitis vinifera and Vitis lambrusca.

So the most accurate answer to this question is that currently grown PIWI grapes are not a Genetic Modified Organism – GMO.

Wine and digital experience

http://www.divinea.com

The wine market has been expanding worldwide in every possible direction. New wine-producing zones have sprung up mainly in the New World bringing new denominations and styles. More than 36 billion bottles are now produced in more than 1 million distinct labels by about 150,000 producers. The wine market is also more competitive every year.

While the European domestic market has remained broadly stable in per capita consumption (in some countries shrinking somewhat), the new world market has been growing at a rapid pace, driven by the strength of the new middle class in emerging countries like China and Brazil.

Invariably people around the world, new or old world, maintain a closer relationship with wine that goes far beyond drinking an alcoholic beverage or something to pair with a good meal at a good restaurant or family reunion. People who drink wine are also interested in its history, its origin. In short they are interested in knowing the tradition behind that wine label. Increasingly, especially in the new world, wine consumers want to have a fuller wine-tasting experience. They seek to better understand what actually defines that terroir. What’s the tradition inside that bottle of wine.

So we need to urgently expand the range of winery services and experiences. Just selling wine is no longer enough. We need to do this beyond the face-to-face visit. The next step is to allow people to increase their point of contact with wineries and to have a little more digital experience. It is necessary to bring to the virtual world the experience of a vineyard tour and a guided wine tasting.

The time has come to better manage the touch points that customers can have with the winery digitally as well. The time has come to offer digital experiences. I believe this is the next step in the digital transformation for the wine consumer market.

Wine tourism and the digital transformation

For some time now we have been discussing the digital transformation in business. Several businesses have sought to innovate and expose their services and products from a digital experience that meets the expectations and new forms of consumption of younger generations. Examples are digital banking, app payment, transportation apps, food delivery services, hotel and restaurant reservations, and so on.

Is digital transformation happening in the wine world? Some companies that already sold wine on the web decided to make their own sales app. We also have some wine rating apps, but the fact is that these services didn’t bring anything new. They only bring together in one application a set of information and services you already had access to on the web.

In addition to the transformations that new technologies are bringing within the wineries and vineyards, the turn of wine tourism has come. Wineries are increasingly opening their doors to welcome their customers by offering a wide range of services ranging from tastings, vineyard biking, tasting picnics to experiences where you can stay at the winery and participate in the grape harvest.

This transformation in the services offered by wineries brings an urgent need to modernize the contact points between wineries and their customers. Most of the time customers come from far away, from other countries, and need to have access to all the details about the services offered and the need to book in advance in some cases.

It is in this scenario that Divinea was born, an Italian start-up that offers a digital transformation platform for wineries and companies offering enogastronomic experiences such as wine bars, wine schools, restaurants etc. From the Divinea platform, anyone interested in a wine experience can search and view the type of experience they want, view details, interact with the winery, schedule and pay without the hassle of having to use the phone or send emails. At the same time wineries have the facility to manage their experiences portfolio as tastings and tours without having to maintain a structure for handling emails, phone calls or even a website.

It seems that the digital revolution just arrived in the wine lovers world.

The importance of being aware of climate change if you make wine

Sunburned grape

With few blunt exceptions, global warming and climate change are a reality. To understand the importance and impact of these changes on wine it is necessary to understand the concept of terroir. Terroir can be defined as the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate. As the characteristic taste and flavour are imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced, terroir changes will impact the wine’s flavor profile.With few blunt exceptions, global warming and climate change are a reality.

Vines are grown in a wide variety of climatic situations. However, a majority of the major wine-growing regions are located between the 35th and the 50th parallels in the Northern Hemisphere and between the 30th and the 45th parallels in the Southern Hemisphere. Climate is a major factor in wine production and, among environmental factors, climate has a greater impact on vine development and fruit composition compared to soil and grape variety.

The main measurable effect of climate change is a steady increase in temperature. This is observed worldwide, although significant differences in the rate of heating exist from one region to another. The date on which bud break, flowering, and véraison occur is driven by temperature. This relation is so strong that vine phenology can be predicted by models that are based only on temperature. Temperature also affects fruit ripening and sugar accumulation that increases with higher temperature. Certain secondary metabolites like anthocyanins are negatively affected when the temperature increases and grape acidity, in particular the malic acid content, decreases in high temperature.

It is quite easy to model phenology based on predicted temperatures, but predicting grape composition as a result of changing climatic conditions in the years to come is much less obvious. However, it is very likely that the already observed trend in grape composition will continue. Increased sugar levels in grapes yield wines with a higher alcohol level. Wine quality can be impaired when alcohol level is too low but also when the alcohol level is too high.

Climate change is a major challenge for viticulture in the coming decades. In the recent past, wine quality has increased in most wine-growing regions because of higher temperatures and more frequent water deficits while yields have decreased. If the tendency continues, quality might be negatively affected in the near future. Growers need to implement adaptive strategies to continue the production of high-quality wines at economically acceptable yields in a warmer and dryer climate.

The fact is there is a lot you can do at the winery, but when you have a naturally healthy and good grape 90% of all the work is already done.

Expectations from the New World: social interactions and wine quality.

I’ve read a lot of blog posts and newspapers talking about how to choose a wine in a supermarket. Most of them addressing wine labeling issues. What we can find and how to interpret the information stamped on a label.

In Europe this may not be so useful as wine culture is widespread in all social strata. I believe in the Old World it’s not so difficult for people to understand labels or even to understand what quality classifications and geographical indications of origin mean. However in the New World we can say that wine culture is not so entrenched outside the producing zones and people have some difficulty understanding labels and classifications. Maybe that’s why Parker became so famous with his ranking.

What I wanted to address in this post is not how to choose a wine, but the expectation we have when buying it. How much influence the label and price we pay for a bottle have on our expectation about the quality of the wine. Wine consumption in the New World is often associated with a special occasion and we can say that a dinner with a bottle of wine on the table is considered a special moment. Can this affect the perception of drink quality? Are we influenced by social factors in our perception of quality?

What I want to discuss is how much our quality assessment is influenced by issues not directly related to the wine itself as price, bottle and label beauty, urban legends, occasion etc. When I speak of urban legends I have a clear example of this. In Brazil an urban legend arose that a bottle of wine that had a concave bottom kept a wine of superior quality. Can you believe in such a nonsense thing?!

The new generations and the long wait for Barolo

Do you think the new generations maintain the same consumption relationship with wine as the previous ones? Can we say that the changes in consumer relations observed mainly from the arrival of millennials are also occurring in the wine market? The fact is millennials are reinventing the wine culture. With specific habits, and out-of-the-box thinking and philosophy, influence on wine culture is very noticeable. Obviously, millennials have brought various changes to the world and the way different things and habits are perceived.

New generations from millennials have considerably changed the logic of consumption. For most of them owning a property such as a house or a car is no more important than being able to use it without owning it. Based on this new consumer logic a whole new service industry has developed and new companies like Uber and AirBnb have sprung up. These new ways of consuming are changing traditional services like banking, healthcare , education etc. But what is the impact of these changes on wine consumption?

Do we still see people with vintage charts or wine in cellars waiting years to be tasted? Another interesting fact is that the wine consumption of the new generations has increased a lot and with this the market has adapted to them. More and more I have seen great Barolos of recent vintages being tasted by the new generations. Can we say that producers have been trying to deliver ready-made wines to the market instead of aging wines?

One thing is certain, the habit of tasting a good wine sharing it with friends seems to remain unchanged. As millennials still make the majority of target audience for various industries, wine included, meeting their demands and wishes is a natural thing to do, especially from a business point of view.