So, a couple of interesting events occurred this week and in an odd sort of way, they’re spiritually related. In New York, I got to see one of my favorite bands that had been on hiatus for the better part of a decade and hadn’t played in the city since 1998. The band is the Britpop combo Pulp, of whose most famous song I was reminded when I attended the second event, a wine festival in a Western U.S. city billed as a “Rock & Roll” wine event (complete with a performance from another band that peaked in the ’90s but whose return was far less triumphant than the aforementioned band from Sheffield, England. (Basically a glorified one-hit wonder, maybe a one-and-a-half-hit wonder if I’m feeling generous).
The song the latter event evoked was “Common People,” basically about a wealthy, bourgeois art student who cluelessly and patronizingly says she wants to live like the common folk. It’s completely lost on her why such a thing is not possible for someone whose rich dad is always a phone call away to bail her out.
What does that have to do with wine? Well, it wasn’t so much the drink itself, but the very forced nature of the tasting festival. It tried to hit attendees over the head with the fact that it was a “rock & roll” event, as if to say, “See, wine understands the common people.” (The cheap plastic tasting cups didn’t help matters. They just came off as tacky).
I’m not saying wine isn’t as flexible a beverage as beer, as far as consumption occasions are concerned. Quite the contrary. But I almost got the sense that the organizers were so self conscious about the—often misguided—perception of wine as a drink that encourages snobbery that they overcompensated by desperately trying to connect with everyday folk by producing a transparently artificial, raucous, rockin’ time. It’s like a multimillionaire buying a Chevy Cavalier in an attempt to “keep it real,” but driving it home to a personal car elevator.
Wine’s a great beverage and has every right to go after traditional beer occasions, just as beer has done with what had been historically perceived as wine occasions. But when it tries too hard, it just comes off as disingenuous and a little desperate.