The wine industry today: from the Bordeaux necktie to the Burgundy t-shirt

22 July 2021

The years do not pass in silence for people in the world of wine. Each new decade leaves an indelible mark on the path of viticultureoenology and also its language, a path that has been trodden many more timesbefore we were born, even if some people forget it. In the history of wine, everything has changed and nothing at all. We have looked so many times in a new way at the field and then at the winery, that we really believe that each new look is more innovative than the previous one, without realising that everything was right there in front of us, as always, and that what was missing was to really open our eyes. At a certain point in wine, the concept of normality was lost and the message moved away from its main purpose, to spread the genius of wine, but with digestible words.

In reality, in the wine sector we have all been transformed. Today's winemaker is not the same as yesterday's, nor is the consumer. Barely 40 years ago, the Spanish winemaker of a certain level was dressed more like the owners of the great Bordeaux châteaux than the local countryman. A neat image, perfectly aligned hair and a windsor or double windsor tie were almost a sine qua non condition for rubbing shoulders with the wine greats in a post-modern Spain open to the world. 

Today, with hindsight, this openness to the world seems insignificant in the face of the frenetic globalised and interconnected world that almost brings us closer to Napa than to the Arribes del DueroQuality wine was made by great personalities and drunk by others no less great. The message that came out of the winery was encrypted by the great broadcasters of wine culture, who sought to reach the most learned of readers by means of the rocambolesque. Wine was not just another drink, it was the drink of educated people, and it had to be explained in cultured language. 

This formula was not exclusive to Spain. It was a message that was repeated by the world's prescribers, ParkerJancis Robinson and also, why not admit it, our founder José Peñín. All of them carried out with the utmost neatness a work of diffusion unknown in the world of wine. With the best of intentions, they delved into its secrets, teaching the science behind many great wines. This commendable work was so well established and had such an impact that the discourse coming out of the wineries became increasingly complex, feeding off each other and making ordinary people feel more and more distanced from wine.

Raúl Pérez

José María Vicente

Times change and the winemakers of yesteryear gradually shed their elegance because they preferred the comfort of being able to kneel down and take a closer look at the plants and their soils. Their perspective changed, as it has ever done in history, and was focused on the earth, the origin ofeverything in wine. Today's young winemakers no longer look to the château, but to the untidy Burgundian cellars and their countrymen, humble and simple-looking people who live byand for wine. And always from the vineyard, without paying attention to other superfluous things. These young people of yesteryear were pioneers because they were able to open their minds when outside influence was not as easy and accessible as it is today. We are talking about producers such as José María Vicente from Casa Castillo or Raúl Pérez. These figures were vital for the official introduction of the T-shirt as a way of life in the world of wine, the stage in which we find ourselves today. This generation based its revolution on looking to the past, as if the great secret of wine were to be found in that past. The sons and daughters of rock weremaking their way in a rebellious, rupturist, generous and social way. They were breaking away from convention to treat wine in a carefree way. 

All these changes in the figure of the producer have also had an impact on the message, on the dissemination of wine culture and on consumers. Many years ago, the Peñín Guide undertook a small change in the description of wines, less pompous, more direct and understandable for a non-specialised consumer, because it understood that wine should reach everyone. 

Disfrutones brindando con vino

Digital openness, social posturing and many other variables have meant that wine, and we are talking about good wine, is now much closer to the normal consumer than it used to be. Today it is much easier to taste wines from other corners of the world, even to talk to the producers themselves. Quality wine is becoming what it was always meant to be, a product for enjoyment and interaction, an exercise to transport us to places, to memories, to moments. Today wine is enjoyable and we want it to remain so, accessible and understandable for everyone, even if they are complex wines. We will take care of making the difficult easy without falling into unnecessary trivialities. Welcome to the generation of wine "disfrutones", a new shift resulting from the evolution of the consumer and the producer.

    Written by Javier Luengo, director editorial de Peñín