Rick Sayre has been making wine at Sonoma’s Rodney Strong Vineyards for some 30 years. He is one of the most respected winemakers in California, and has seen trends come and go, wines cult and un-cult, and fads travel full circle.
As such, he’s a man whose opinions should be taken into account. And what does Sayre think is one of the biggest problems facing the wine business? Wine writing.
“It’s not the biggest changes I’ve seen over the past 30 years,” said Sayre during a visit to Dallas last week. “It’s the challenges we still face, and that’s education. People like you” – and he looked at me -- “have to do more to make wine less intimidating. Otherwise, it won’t be accepted as a daily beverage in the United States.”
I note this because Sayre is the first and only winemaker to ever say something like that to me. Even more amazing, he said this day before I posted my Wine writing, and what’s wrong with it entry – and he had no idea that I had written it.
More, after the jump:
During the interview, Sayre quoted many of the same numbers I did in my post, including the per capita consumption figure that has remained mostly unchanged since the early 1980s. The difference is that Sayre was making wine at Rodney Strong when the industry was supposed to boom 25 years ago, and saw that it didn’t. He brings experience to the discussion that most of us, myself included, don’t have.
Sayre’s take is that Americans are still confused and bewildered by wine in a way that they aren’t about food. Sayre noted the renaissance in American cuisine, the increasing importance of local ingredients, and the surge in restaurants that focus on those two things, and asked a good question: Why hasn’t that happened with wine? Why are we still so afraid?
“People need to learn to drink what they enjoy,” he said. “They don’t have to be intimidated. They have to learn that if they make a ‘mistake,’ it doesn’t matter.”
Wine writers, and the industry in general, he said, need to ask: “What can we do to take the intimidation out of wine?”
Who can argue with that?
Part II: Changes in winemaking over the past 30 years, and what they mean for consumers.