July being a calm season, I am spending my time writing and it has really made me turn my attention to the whos, whys, whens, hows and whats of the wine business, especially the way we communicate about wine.

This, you may think, should come easily to a wine author who finds the art of writing easy and fun. Perhaps too easily sometimes since we risk sticking in a rut and communicating in the “same old, same old”.   A few events in the last few weeks made me question the art of wine speak.  The first was the “Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines” conference, a Think Tank for the great and the good of the wine trade tasked at looking to the future of our business that I attended, along with Steven Spurrier, in Bordeaux.  I was struck by the boldness and the brashness of the young Americans presenting papers, who had a completely new outlook about the wine industry.  Tasting notes and scores out of 100 are so yesterday; words such as acidity, tannin, bitterness are turn offs.  We should avoid too much vino babble and instead let our readers know the name of the winemaker’s dog.  That is far more of a turn on. 

We should be looking at the diversity that shapes the global wine world be it ethnic, gender or generation.  We need to create a place of belonging, we need to be more visual, we need to tell stories.  We need to adapt our messages to the younger generation.   I am relieved to hear that this doesn’t mean that wine books such as my “Great Wine Families” (now released in English) are no longer relevant.  On the contrary, they tell stories, they link the generations and affirm our heritage. 

To get a more modern look at what drives the young millennials (many of whom I hope read this blog) I took a look at two of the most successful shows on the global scene as examples; both are firmly rooted in a narrative. 

First, the American musical Hamilton which recounts the rise and fall of the most brilliant founding father.  We know the story from the beginning, but it is in the recounting of the story, the beautiful tapestry of character, action and emotion which brings historical facts to life.  Secondly, Tomorrowland, the fantastic festival of electronic music held in Belgium each year that has become a global sensation.  Jacques and I went last Saturday and we were embraced and saluted in the crowd for our presence; certainly, we were some of the few grey heads amongst a sea of beautiful, international youth!  The main stage was a library, set up with books with a strong storyline running through the festival.  We loved the energy; the nations united, flags held high, Israel next to Korea, Australia next to Russia, Singapore next to Argentina but especially we loved the power and beauty of this tomorrow.

Both these events, Hamilton and Tomorrowland, were made possible by today’s technology.  But technology was absolutely not the story.  The story was about quality, about persistence and authenticity and simplicity.  It was about story telling; a story well told that gave its readers or its listeners a sense of belonging to a community.   That is the power of Tomorrowland, Hamilton and we hope that this is the power of the community that we are forming around our wine selection at Thienpont. 

Our website has exceeded our expectations both in traffic and in sales.   This gives us the incentive to carry on communicating in as clear and as authentic a way as we can (I am currently hard at work on a new Burgundy guide while Amandine is working on the next catalogue).  And we promise that we will try as much as possible in the future to get away from stuffy tasting notes and bring you the stories behind the wines.

© Fiona Morrison M.W.