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It\'s the Best of Times

It’s the best of times and… well, the best of times.

Where better to be right now than in the wine industry? The word on the vines from the annual and much awaited The Gomberg-Fredrikson Report, put out every year by TradePulse and headed up by the notable wine-scanner Jon Fredrikson, reports Fredrikson himself as saying “Overall, it’s the best of times for the wine industry.” The reasons and factors driving this statement are manifold – but in short, we live in a heath-conscious era, and for wine to have its health-benefits re-asserted in publication after publication (most recently in Fortune) does a great deal of good; moreover wine is becoming accepted as an everyday beverage by the public and never before have marketers paid so much attention to it. The industry is on fire.

Yesterday I was listening to the Three Wine Guys podcast and they started talking about how more and more people go to restaurants and how much the quality of restaurant eating has increased. I’m just speculating here – but I imagine that if we were to ask our parents how often they were eating out with friends in their twenties, I imagine the answer would be drastically lower in comparison with our lifestyles today. More than that, I reckon that 20 years ago there wasn’t much choice outside of French and Italian food. Nowadays whether you’re in New York, Miami, San Francisco, LA or Boston you’re likely to find Ethiopian, Moroccan, Persian, Indian and Chinese food. The challenge with such a diverse explosion of cuisine has been in finding appropriate wine matches. The challenge of finding a suitable match to a Persian Lamb Kofta is tough… many places may serve Chianti – but I personally prefer a Pinotage/ Shiraz blend.

The tougher question is, and this is something the 3 Wine Guys didn’t touch on, but the biggest culinary explosion must be at home – so in lieu of a sommelier for guidance, how can we know what food to pair with what? With the onset of Rachael Ray and old Jamie Oliver such implements like the Wok and paring knives are commonplace in even the least adventurous of kitchens. So many stereotypes of 10 years ago no longer hold water – in that a lot of my male friends have found a particular flair for cooking exotic food; have shunned beer in favour of wine and don’t mind shopping for ingredients if need be. The youth is a far cry from the greasers of the fifties, the hippies in the sixties and the shoulder-pad clad, hairspray and glitter brigade of the 80’s. The youth of today dress better, read more, communicate with friends by e-mail and are in general far more independent of their parents in ideology than ever before. I think that the wine industry is set to change hugely insofar as people’s tastes are concerned. As people grow independently sophisticated at an earlier age – with no hard and fast rule about what wine is best to serve with a Lamb Vindaloo and Jasmine Rice Pilau, where to turn to get an idea? The answer, not surprisingly, would have to be the internet. Already, through Netflix, after extensive use, I am often surprised with a film I’ve never heard of but upon watching am completely engrossed in. Could the same happen with wine (incidentally Rachael Ray has a basic wine pairing tool on her site)? Will it ever occur that a website can learn to recommend wine to me with precision? And if so, would I be able to purchase the wine there and then?

On this point, I was reading the Guardian over the weekend and came across an article about a new Brain-Scanner that can read people’s intentions – which is rather similar to the premise of the movie Minority Report, except on a much lower scale. I don’t suggest that it would take such a machine to figure out the right Gewrztraminer for my Fennel-Crusted Monkfish in Hollandaise, but such an invention with and the incumbent ethical implications based on its creation would make for great conversation over a bottle of wine or two with friends, don’t you think?


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