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Tastevin As the New Tiara

By Courtney Cochran

toque.jpgI had to chuckle at a recent New York Times article that included the provocative assertion that “the toque is the new tiara.”  And while the piece’s subject matter - the surge of interest in so-called foodie culture in America, epitomized by the popularity of TV shows like Top Chef and films like Ratatouille - is fascinating, what I find still more intriguing is the parallel rise in enthusiasm for wine culture we’re seeing in this country.
Hip To Be Somm
While the Times piece pointed up as proof of the foodie phenomenon many American youths’ newfound aspirations to careers in the culinary realm, I offer as support of my theory about the advancement of wine culture the many emails I receive from would-be sommeliers asking me for advice about breaking into the wine business.  Wine's surging popularity is also evident in the beverage's recent media inroads:  Wine appeared as a key theme in 2004’s Academy Award-winning film, Sideways, was the subject of the controversial documentary Mondovino (which also appeared in 2004), and draws tens of thousands of viewers weekly to WineLibraryTV, one of the web's most highly rated video programs.  

And while some may dismiss this new interest in wine as merely tangential to the much-hyped growth in foodie culture, I believe it’s a movement with its own unique energy and implications.  To wit, the Wine Market Council announced last Friday that wine drinkers in their twenties - a group dubbed Millennials since most of them turned 21 after the year 2000 - are the fastest growing segment of the wine market.  Seventy million strong, Millennials are the first generation to embrace wine at such a young age - a phenomenon that can only signal a still brighter future for wine. 

So although it’s unlikely that “sommelier” will beat out “chef” as the darling occupation of the new millennium, the appeal of the position, and the broader interest in wine it signals, is undeniable.


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