Taste The New Year

‘This is some good Yellowtail’ he said, sloshing out a near half pint’s worth of juice into a dirty whisky tumbler. ‘You know, I’ve heard that every bottle of Yellowtail is a little different, and that the stuff we get up here is especially good because of the altitude.’ I stood, looking on in complete disbelief at the character before me. It was Christmas two years ago in Vail Colorado that I met Darren who had rather peculiarly given himself the nickname M.O.D which stood for ‘man on duty.’

You know what Ruarri?

What M.O.D?

“That’s why I like wine, because it’s different, you know? Like this Yellowtail stuff here. It’s made in Australia, but I’m drinking it in Colorado, and you know, because of the altitude and all, it’s completely different. I bet you those folks in Australia had no idea how good there juice would taste at this height, I aint even sure if they have mountains over there, being on the other side of the world and all. Wine at altitude dude! WOO HOO!

This snippet of conversation is but one of many I’ve had in my life where people learn of my wine background and then go on to show that they have no what wine background at all. That’s not a bad thing by the way. In fact the thought that there are people out there who think that Yellowtail tastes different at different altitudes is so crazy that it may even be part of a bizarrely genius underground buzz-marketing campaign. Let me fast-forward a year though, where I had chosen to not spend Christmas in Vail, but had been invited to a small farm in the Netherlands to have Christmas with my wife and some of our on a farm.

Being a Dutch farm, there was a fantastic Cotes du Rhone being passed around and to follow, the Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon 1995, which is one of my favourite wines. One may not understand what being a Dutch farm has to do with the wine selection, but the Netherlands is both close to France in Geography and close to South Africa historically, and so the connection between the French wine and a South African wine on a Dutch dining room table is rather breath-taking when considered in great detail, but I’ll leave that to another blog-post.

The people in our party were master’s students, young accountants, entrepreneurs and photographers, as well as our hosts who owned the farm. Being ex-pats we all joined forces and prepared our own dishes for the Christmas feast, and while we cooked passed around Chablis to cleanse our palate and ignite a little festive spirit. As we all sat down, everyone emptied their Chablis glasses to make way for the Cotes du Rhone, and it suddenly struck me how completely different it is to be a young person in Europe than being young in the US. No one in our party had ever been on a cooking course, or had gone to wine school, but it was just a part of their life-style. When they thought of Cotes du Rhone, they thought of summers spent in the region and how long it would take to get there. It so happens that the family’s uncle stayed opposite the Le Riche estate in Stellenbosch, and it just seemed that everyone had far more of a relationship with wine and .

There is no question that McDonald’s is satisfying and cheap; and that Yellowtail is affordable and sweet. McDonalds has no relationship to its food, its food for food’s sake. Most people eat it whilst on the run and most people drink Yellowtail as part of their pre-game, that is, a means to the end of getting drunk. Whilst out on the farm I felt reconnected to the route of wine, to how embedded it is in farming, relationships and special occasions. Being in Manhattan, reading the Wine Spectator and taking occasional visits to Napa created a rift in my mind where I began to believe for myself that wine is about profit. If one closes their mind a little, it would be easy to believe Hollywood and can get the impression that a good film should be about massive production costs and Box-Office sales. However, for anyone with a passion for old movies or foreign film, they will appreciate that this is clearly not the case.

This past year, the quality of my free time has been greatly increased by my iPOD and being a subscriber to Netflix. This is by and large because I’ve been able to rent movies I was never previously able to and that I no longer have to subject my mind to radio-jockeys or advertising, and can instead listen to selected Podcasts, ‘This American Life’ and the Princeton Review’s ‘LSAT Logic in Everyday Life’ being among my favourite. And I really needed my free time, because most days I became frustrated at how restricted wine-buyers, and therefore consumers were by shelf-space. It was over Christmas, as I sat in the company of good friends, drinking wine that I thought how nice it would be if 2007 could be the year where everyone in the US in their 20’s could experience something similar to that. The feeling of being connected to a conversation, the meal, the wine and the moment, the feeling of ambience that so many Americans completely miss out on when they’re young.

Tastevine is 100% committed to changing the way young people experience the wine-industry, and 2007 is going to be the year that the wine industry is no longer restricted and that the diversity of it is saved. Until now, consumer trends in the USA were the cause of drastic and volatile decisions. We all know now that the end effect of the ‘Sideways’ phenomenon was that the industry ended up having a lot of bad Pinot Noir and a lot of good Merlot, and many farms planted Pinot Noir vines where it wasn’t able to grow and tore out Merlot vines from perfect Merlot-terroir. This is quite obviously the result of a trend gone wrong, and ultimately was caused by misinformation and an overly influential movie. The internet and Web 2.0 will help people receive better information; experience wine more diversely; research their decisions and ultimately have a more fruitful experience. May 2007 bring you good friendships, good times and good wine. Cheers.

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