I’m greatly honored to have been shortlisted for the IWSC Communicator of the year 2013 award. As a token of gratitude to all the people who have noticed this peripheral wine writer exercising his craft out of all places in Helsinki, I decided to share with you my take on the topic of being a good wine communicator. Hope you enjoy it and share your thoughts with me.
To be a wine expert is to take a stance. To form an opinion. To spit it out. To not hold it back.
Let me tell you why. Whether Vin Jaune from Jura, Casablanca Carménère or Moscato d’Asti, one cannot prefer every style out there. Hell, if you like everything, you are probably an alcoholic and would benefit from discontinuing drinking wine. No need to like every style.
Not to worry: the things you don’t prefer can be valuable assets to you. Let me open up this thought a bit for you.
To be an opinion leader is to have opinions. Sounds self-evident (not to mention tautologic) but is unfortunately far from it in the world of wine. As a wine communicator opinions are your most valuable possessions. More lucid, pronounced and articulate, the better. Your palate is fundamental, because you cannot access a wine without it. It is vital that you do not disrespect yourself by not trusting your own palate. You’ve drank a bottle or two. That’s why they call you a wine pro. Stay true to your palate, that is your job.
For example, my palate tells me it doesn’t approve 95% of Sauvignon blancs out there. You see, I dislike most aromatic white wines in general, but find cheap SB particularly nasty. I find it mostly boring and irritating and as far as I’m concerned, producers could rip all the Sauvignon blanc vines off and replace them with something better. Why? Because that’s what my palate tells me after hundreds of samples. I’m not proud about the fact that I have trouble respecting wines that other wine pros find delicious and palatable. But you see, it’s not at all about me being proud or ashamed of the matter. It’s about my palate communicating it to me as a highly subjective fact.
All I have to do is to own it. And that is the most difficult part of being a wine communicator.
To be a wine pro is to not be ashamed of your preferences. Instead of hiding the dislikes, build your personal brand around the things you love and the things you don’t. You are an unique voice in the world of wine. Do not blur that voice by being a forerunner of safe and mediocre. Communicate your preferences clearly so people will know where you are coming from. By accumulating vast amounts of knowledge but not communicating your preferences, you’ll end up being another walking dictionary with little relevant to say. We don’t need those anymore. We have Google for that.
To be a wine communicator is to be fallible, so be mistaken regularly. That’s what evolving is all about and you are not ready. You will never be ready. Allow yourself to evolve through discussion with the world. Don’t fix your position too firmly, allow the world around you to change. It will change no matter what you do. Be sensitive to change. Have a dialogue with it. Embrace the fact that you don’t know everything. Be open to insights from others. If it means eventually changing your position 180 degrees, do not hesitate to follow suit. People who know they are always right are not good wine experts. They are self-righteous schmucks. People who never recognize their shortcomings are disconnected and thus inevitably boring. Be authentic and thus interesting.
To be a wine lover is to share your passion. The more you share it, the more you generate it. Period.
To be more than wine lover, is to form opinions. Whether your perspective is utter bullshit or a valuable insight to some, is not for you to decide. It may be both at the same time. Your task is to form an opinion through your knowledge and not be intimidated by the fact that you are unfortunately not the infallible Pope of vinous matters. Others will disagree with you. They will sometimes think you are an idiot. It is their right, do not try to take it away from them. Let the people decide whether you are onto something or totally clueless, do not strain yourself with the task of being your own judge. Instead follow your instinct.
To be a wine expert is to take a stance. It’s good for you. Sometimes you intuitively hit the mark when you are forced to form an opinion on something you are not sure how you feel about. That’s silent knowledge in action. It forces you to improve your thought process. So go and embrace the discomfort zone. Growth happens outside the boundaries of cosy and nice. Discomfort is your friend. You see, brain is like a muscle. Exercise hurts a bit, but eventually you become a better thinker. That means you will become a better wine expert not to mention a better communicator. And that my friend, is a worthy goal.