Sunday, February 09, 2020

“Wine? I don’t care about scores, competitions mean nothing to me and I don’t collect anything!”

– The Gen Z interview

While writing a recent story for the paper, I sat at a coffee shop and scribbled. An apparition of a  person hovering nearby saw that I had a copy of a wine magazine and asked me what I was reading. Being the quintessential introvert, I squirmed. And then I showed it to her. She could have been young enough to be my granddaughter, if I’d had one. “Last year I turned 21,” she said, and have been thinking about wine and alcohol. I had no idea they had magazines about wine!”

I was on a deadline and was pressed to finish the piece, which had nothing to do with the magazine. So, I told her I was working on something else and could I send her some interview questions. We’d earlier determined that we had mutual acquaintances and thus there would be no risk from exchanging emails. “I don’t check my email that often,” she said, “but text me when you do, so I can pull them up.” And with that I finished my flat white, she disappeared, and I boogied out the door to my next appointment.

I thought about what I could ask a new person entering into the world of alcoholic beverages, and wine especially. It seems one of her uncles was a wine aficionado and had a small collection of wine, and during holidays she came into contact with some good wines from France and Italy. She wasn’t exactly uninitiated, although college studies and becoming an adult, trying to find a job and maintain personal and family relationships were of a higher priority than delving into the labyrinth of mysteries that wine posed for so many.

Eventually I came upon a series of questions for her, which I emailed to her. A few weeks later she sent them back with her answers. And they were remarkably lucid, considering she wasn’t all that into wine. Here goes, the unexpurgated interview with the latest generation of incoming wine drinkers, whom we call Gen Z.

Q. You’re invited to a couple’s house for dinner and your task is to bring wine. What do you do?

A. I never get that assignment. But if I did, I’d probably go to the market and buy something that looked interesting and was under $20. I don’t cook much, yet, but my uncle taught me a little about matching wine with food. I’d probably find out what they were making and try and find a good match.

Q. You’re in a local wine shop or grocery store and there are two bottles of wine next to each other. One has a shelf tag that says the wine got 90 points. The other one doesn’t, but it has a more eye-catching label. What do you do?

A. I don’t care about scores! I’m done with college and grades. It doesn’t motivate me to see a score. Who is the reviewer? Is she (or he) like me? Are we in the same income bracket, the same social circles, the same universe? Why would that influence me? It seems unnatural. No, I’d take a snap of the interesting label and see what other people in my peer group think of it. And if it had a good reception, then I’d probably buy that wine. But 90+ points, who cares? Seems like an ego trip to me.

Q. I have a question about Italian wine for you. What do you think of when you think about Italian wine? I’m sure you don’t often think about it or if you do, it is only in cases like this. Share your thoughts, without too much inner reflection.

A. I had an Italian aunt, who was married to one of my father’s brothers. She was a really good cook. And she had wine in her kitchen. And she cooked with it. So, my first thought was that Italian wine is something that goes with food. But that it is more like a condiment. I know there are more expensive wines from Italy, but when I go into my local Trader Joe’s I usually see a Chianti for under $10 and that is kinda what it makes me think of. Is that what you were asking for?

Q. There are the Academy Awards, the Grammys, and there are also wine competitions. Would any winners from those kinds of contests influence your consumer choices?

A. Hmm, I don’t know. I remember when Billie Eilish uploaded "Ocean Eyes" to SoundCloud. I liked it a lot. But it’s almost like all the Grammys she just won invalidated my discovery of her. It’s as if someone or something else is trying to intercept my journey and tell me what I should like. Same thing with movies. I liked “Harriet” a boatload, but I don’t really care if it gets an Oscar. And wine, winning a contest? It sounds idiotic. Competitions mean nothing to me! I don’t need some expert curating my life experience, telling me what I should or should not like. I’d sooner stick with kombucha or, whatever, White Claw, lol! So, no, to your answer, I am not influenced or impressed by “them.”

Q. You mentioned you had an uncle who was a wine lover and that during the holidays he’d bring wines out of his collection for the family to enjoy. Would you ever imagine yourself collecting wine?

A. Well, my uncle was obsessive. And he was an academic, so his life was more structured. He also made a lot of money, along with inheriting some from his father. So, he had the luxury of affluence, which my generation may never see. But I’m not a hoarder, I don’t collect anything! I don’t have the room in my studio apartment, I don’t have the money and truthfully, I don’t have the interest to have all these things weigh me down. Look, I'm almost 22, just got out of college eight months ago. My adult life is just beginning. But I don’t see a world in which I’ll have hundreds of bottles of wine, it just isn’t who I am. It seems wasteful and a little pretentious.

Q. Last question. Does wine seem part of your future adult life? And thank you for taking these questions.

A. I really can’t say. Right now, I look around me and the world just feels like it is coming apart. I wonder what’s next? Every day there’s another important thing someone wants me to pay attention to. I’m just trying to get through the week. And when Saturday rolls around, I’m overwhelmed with all the news and decisions and emergencies in the world, that I just really don’t think about wine. I’m probably not the best person for you to ask these questions to. It just seems that there are more important things than wine and all the things that are attached to it that make it a desirable part of one’s life, of my life at least. Ask me in ten years.

imagined, written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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