On a cold Sunday morning in February 2017, I started the first day of my WSET wine education. It was two degrees outside, dark when I arrived, dark when I left. Six of us huddled around a table and embarked on an intense journey to learn about wine
Wine is the UK’s most popular alcoholic drink. We have been one of the biggest importers of this fermented grape juice for centuries. And while 60 years ago it accounted for just 5% of total alcohol consumption, today it sits at a third.
More than half of the adults in the UK drink wine at least once a month. That stat always astounds me. Especially when you consider 20% of adults are teetotal (and the number is rising). 20 litres of wine are consumed per head in the UK. Which averages at 24 bottles per wine drinker per year.
Younger people are drinking less. Wine volume is dropping — though most heavily at the entry-points. And, while there are shrinkages in the overall market, the £8 & up bracket is projected to grow by 25% over the next two years.
Despite its popularity, wine has a pretentious image. ‘Wine snob’ is common parlance. The notion of a wine bore is so accepted, even the toilets in Noble Rot have cartoons parodying it.
There is a gulf between those who know and those who do not.
When I speak to people about wine, often someone might preface what they’re about to say with “I don’t know anything about wine really, but –” Can you imagine saying the same about music before they say they like a certain artist?
There is a world built up around wine in our collective psyche that makes people nervous and feel inferior.
A short shop in an independent merchant can intimidate as much as it can excite. Even in today’s modern world, more shelf space is given to Bordeaux & Burgundy than any other. Price tags here quickly leap into three and even four figures.
A cynic could argue that such knowledge preservation is purposeful. But step inside the wine trade and you’ll see it’s full of people who want to share. A nugget of information, a story they heard from a winemaker, a new discovery in a well-trodden region.
But well-intentioned or not, there is a gap. Wine knowledge today is held by a top 0.1% of its drinkers and I don’t think that’s right.
My background is in startups, where I have seen first hand the power that technology and disruption can have.
Here you have the ability, to put in the hands of the many that which was previously only available to the few.
When I completed my WSET, I started a newsletter with the intention of sharing wine knowledge and tasting notes. I learnt quickly that there were a lot of people who were hungry to know more — but had no idea where to start.
And so last year, I launched The Wine List.
The Wine List is a wine education startup looking to level up all of those who want to learn more.
Every month, we will provide you with the learning materials and community needed to learn about wine. We will also provide you with incredible and interesting wines so that you can practice your new techniques each month.
Your wine learning will extend to every bottle you drink. With some practice, after six-to-twelve months, you should be able to look at a restaurant wine list, or shelves in your local merchant, and have an inkling of what a bottle should taste like.
We believe that the best learning happens at home with friends or family, in an interactive way, but with the access to a community of other learners.
For the last few months, we have been testing the prototype of the product. We’ve emailed and texted almost all of you, and called or interviewed a few dozen of you.
From March 1st, I will be working full time as the founder & CEO of The Wine List, and here will be a lot changing over this year.
What has been a prototype will roll out into a way for you gain wine knowledge: a structured monthly wine course, online resources for your learning, and a community of fellow wine lovers to learn along with.
I cannot wait to start this journey — and welcome you along for the ride.
If you’re excited by this idea too. Perhaps you might want to sign up. The code MEDIUM gives you £10 off your first box. Or perhaps you might want to come and work with us. Or perhaps you just want to have a chat, in which case my email is always open.