The following post is my entry for #MWWC30. The very last #MWWC of 2016 was won by the Texas wine blogger of NYC and favorite of mine, Shez of The Epicurious Texan. Her choice is Obscure. Congrats, Shez!
The title should probably read more like a tabloid headline:
Obscure Wine Drinker Becomes Twitter Seat-filler to the tune of Hundreds of Dollars Worth of Wine.
Do you know me? Probably not. Most would say I’m just another face in the crowd. Unremarkable. Ordinary. Possessing no charismatic traits or notable features to attract attention. Just your average wine consumer. Even my wine buying habits are average. They lie between economically affordable and always dependable. You could call me Joe Public of the wine masses.
And yet, in 2015, something strange happened. Social media and good old-fashioned marketing caught me as I went quietly from one familiar bottle to the next. A bright spotlight appeared on wines I’d steadily ignored for the ‘safer’ wine offerings of widely known grapes.
Maybe it was the timing or the weariness of routine but I’d grown restless with the comfortably mundane. Then, one night while scrolling through Twitter, I eavesdropped on a conversation with the hashtag #winestudio. It sucked me in like a tornado with its seductive wine banter between a lively group of wine drinkers and a Chilean winemaker. Who knows what possessed me, but this average wine drinker did the unthinkable. I asked a question and a kind wine stranger answered!
The next day, I found myself at the wine shop searching the shelves for Montes Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. I’m positive I heard an audible high-five between marketers for successfully snagging this consumer. Except, I think I was ripe for the picking. The thought of buying a wine produced from a far off local seemed exciting and exotic. My heart raced as I timidly asked my wine shop clerk if they had the mysterious bottle. I began calculating what this international adventure was about to cost as he rang it up. Enthusiasm can be expensive. The total was $15. I stared dumbly at the clerk. Huh? Hold on, let me clean out the earwax. Repeata, por favor? $15. Was it discounted? A bottle you’ve been trying to get rid of for ten years? No, he assured me. The regular price is $15. Were Chilean wines usually this inexpensive? No. However, there were several delicious and quite affordable. I could be drinking wine from Chile and I didn’t even know it! What else was out there in the affordably global wine market?
Being the astute wine marketer, he immediately recognized an open door and pounced with a second suggestion to go with my awakening wine vision, Hopler Pannonica, a red blend from Austria. Only $9. ‘I like to suggest it to Millennial professionals,’ he said grinning. ‘They balk at the low price but are reeled in by the taste. Plus, it’s grapes, Blaufrakisch and Zweigelt, are so unknown to most, it guarantees they’ll be the center of attention at any dinner party. And since it’s impolite to ask the price, they’re safe from being called a cheapskate.’ Might be narcissistic for wanting all the attention, but Austria came home with me.
In the meantime, I started paying more attention to #wine hashtags and tweet-ups. These #wine playdates popped up all over at various times and days. My social media activity drew the attention of a few wine marketers who were desperate for seat-fillers for tweetups. One contacted me with an offer to participate in their Bordeaux Fan tasting. Bordeaux. To me Bordeaux was like glimpsing a celebrity across the street as they entered a darkened car. A wine tasting kit and gift card arrived with instructions to try Bordeaux at three different price points and then answer a questionnaire. Reality sunk into my wine ignorant brain. I was responsible for answering intelligently about my wine choices. Me, an average wine drinker who’d only ever thought of finding a nice affordable wine for dinner.
Pride, vanity, and terror gripped me. However, the thought of free Bordeaux got me to the wine shop. As I crossed the threshold, once again panic set in. I knew zero about Bordeaux but was suppose to buy a few bottles on their dime and talk about them? Thankfully, the clerk who’d gotten me into the Austrian red blend was eager to help. I’m going to let you in on a secret: our local wine shop has a handful of certified wine specialists. The clerk gleefully went from bottle to bottle rattling off producers, regions, and winemaking facts as I tried to get it into my notebook. Terms flew swiftly by my head.
Over, the next year. The scene repeated itself. Marketers wanted to know if I would participate and tweet about the wine, etc.? Sure, but you know I’m only a wine drinker, right? No problem! Bottles of wine would arrive on my doorstep from tiny hamlets, quiet European villages or Middle Eastern countries. Several were made from lesser-known grape varietals I couldn’t begin to pronounce. For example, Boğazkere from Turkey. All I can say is it means ‘throat burner’ and it lives up to its name.
Two things became clear to me. One, my lack of knowledge wasn’t a strong impediment to participation as long as I was willing to learn and two, the majority of the wines I received landed in the $10-20 range. How could the world be so affordable?
Those bottles from countries I might never visit opened a Pandora’s box. It required me to do research and learn to ask questions. Why was this winemaker giving his life to wine? What was the environmental, cultural, political climate of these areas? Why does this grape only grow on jagged hillsides in granite soil? Did you know there are over 10,000 grape varietals? There are wines out there made with grapes sounding closer to classic film stars such as Spain’s Eva de Los Santos or Sicilian mob boss’ with Nerello Mascalese than reliable old office managers like Merlot.
What shocked me was how obtainable these wines are becoming. They’re even starting to make an appearance in ‘fly-over’ Oklahoma! I guess I should say I owe social media a nod of thanks for giving me a hunger for obscure wines. And for plucking this relatively obscure wine drinker out of the crowd to stand eagerly in the middle of the wine aisle and try to decide between Assyrtiko from Greece or Godello from Spain.
Excuse me, has anyone here tried Mala . . .Malago . . .Malagousa?