The question posed by the 2023 Wine Writers Symposium application essay about this time last year implores a simple answer. While I’d love to describe wine’s importance with one mind-blowing word and expand upon it further with a jaw-dropping, whimsical explanation, it’s my lack of success in finding such a word is actually what makes my answer so kismet — particularly since wine is so global. One English word answering ‘Why is wine important?’ might not be perfect in French, Portuguese, or even Kartvelian.
This challenge is even more difficult because wine isn’t a singular thing. Sure, it’s a liquid made of fermented grapes. But it’s conversations and connection. It’s science, many kinds. It’s an entire industry filled with people making it, learning about it, and ultimately selling it — not only literal bottles but also aspirational ideas.
My answer comes down to people, place, and progress.
— their land, livelihood, and legacy.
For the viticulturist, the importance lies in protecting something that grows from dormancy while combating the elements. For the winemaker, it’s about the chemistry’s capability and creating something from what Mother Earth provides. It’s about communicating nuances for the wine shop associate, delivering a-ha moments for people to take home. For students, it’s about linking place, heritage, and tradition. And for media and communicators, it’s about opening the doors, disseminating wine’s delight.
If any of these joyful pursuits land successfully with a bottle-buying consumer, we’ve helped solidify a small part of a vineyard’s future and a producer’s legacy.
— honoring the past while honing the possibilities.
As an industry, we understand how terroir is the crux of a wine’s eventual character. Adjust any aspect of the grape’s experience in the vineyard, and it’s a different wine.
By continuing influential conversations surrounding organic and sustainable practices, the industry can help consumers move past the bottles made by industrial conglomerates’ and, instead, help them understand the differences between Tempranillo from a Rioja cooperative and Tinta del País from a 5th-generation Ribera del Duero producer. One is not better or more important than the other, but learning their distinctions — nay, eco-conscious practices — is undoubtedly a consumer superpower enabling a wider window for generations of future winemaking.
— wine is for all.
Wine’s importance lies in its fluidity. Leave the fine wine flashiness to the Michelin restaurants and aspiring Master Sommeliers — there will always be a place for ritualistic wine culture. But for the majority of wine-loving aficionados, it’s about connection.
Wine can uplift friendships and ease difficult conversations. It’s there for momentous vacations and family celebrations. It’s also a paramount piece of our eating and drinking rituals.
Its importance remains, with no finite answer nor boundary to the bottle’s benevolence. It doesn’t stop pouring, no matter the color of our skin, parts of our bodies, or the neighborhood in which we live. If it does, just grab another bottle.