Men in Black


One of the things I was looking forward to by working on my own was seeing wine through a consumer’s eyes, with as little interference from my previous  professional involvement as possible. This means opening a bottle  with friends, family and food and just enjoying it.  After spending most of last week at the presumptuously named ‘7th World Wine Forum’ here in Logroño, where viticulturists, winemakers, politicians, marketers and assorted gurus (only one of which talked about the importance of social media) discussed the current state of the industry, I’ve been tempted to adopt a ‘Men in Black’ policy.

As you all remember, ‘Men in Black’ is about a secret police force whose mission is to protect the hidden but large and influential alien population on Earth and to keep humans from discovering its existence. Whenever humans are accidentally made aware of the presence of aliens, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, the ‘men in black’, put on their protective sunglasses and shoot off a special device that makes the humans forget what they’ve seen.

Some of the things I heard at the World Wine Forum reminded me of this movie.

After listening to a very interesting presentation about how Germany is using Mendelian genetics  to make vines resistant to plagues such as mildew, oidium and phylloxera (by patiently crossing strains), a process that they have shortened from 35 years to 15), I began to feel good about the effect of ‘green’ policies in the wine trade.  However, later that day, another presentation discussed the use of biotechnology (i.e. genetic modification using bacteria as catalysts for the same purpose ).

Do we need fast track genetically modified grapes?  The winemakers from Rioja sitting around me didn’t think so. But I’m afraid that in our fast-paced society no one will have the patience to wait, like Mendel, to cross plants to create disease-resistant grapevines, opting instead for genetic modification by using bacteria. I only hope that if this is inevitable, grapevines are bred to produce fewer grapes.  This is probably the only way to reduce the current imbalance between supply and demand.

I also had to sit through several presentations about ‘How to win big in the US or UK market’.  I’ve been listening to these presentations for almost 40 years and think it’s about time to start talking about having conversations with consumers.

So, Will and Tommy Lee, shoot me with your amnesia gun! I just want to enjoy wine.