To reverse wine's fading American cachet, do less
New York’s hottest club is not Bêvèrãgęš. But if you emerged from a decade-long coma on December 5th, 2022 and the first thing you read for some reason was Arielle Gordon’s delicious story at Punch about the floating wine gathering for scene kids, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. What is Bêvèrãgęš? Ah, so glad you asked. It’s “a quasi-monthly ‘wine party with music’” that’s “part of a movement to introduce wine to club kids—on their turf.” Does that clear things up for you? No? Hmm. I’m not sure if Gordon meant to give her subjects enough rope to hang themselves in this story, but that’s certainly how things shook out. Some choice quotes from the various *shudders* “DJs and restaurant veterans” responsible for hosting this roving bottle-share and perpetrating the punctuational butchery of “Bêvèrãgęš” upon the English language:
“[W]hat would you rather drink two pills deep than a super fruity pét-nat rosé?”
“We didn’t invent wine and music going together; I think that was the Georgians,” he says, referencing the republic of Georgia, one of the world’s oldest wine-producing regions.
“That’s why we’re called Bêvèrãgęš with all the accents over it—you don’t even have to learn how to pronounce any of these wines or any of these weird Italian disco tracks, you can just enjoy it.”
At this point you’ve probably already located the nearest power drill and taken it to your frontal lobe, but if not: these folks refer to themselves as “wine jockeys,” which is less tongue-in-cheek than tongue-between-teeth-bite-down-hard.
Look, I get it, I do. As I just wrote the other day, there’s real concern in the global wine industry about the relative decline in popularity of its liquid wares amongst millennials, who are not “aging into” the segment way previous generations have. To some extent, you’ve gotta meet drinkers where they are. In that sense, I applaud Bêvèrãgęš’ stated goal of “trying to demystify wine and make it accessible and approachable.” But listing an old-vine, skin-contact listán blanco from the Canary Islands as “Smelly Volcano Island Juice” is irrecoverably corny, and not where anyone who wants to reverse wine’s American cachet slide should want the wine business to go.
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Take it from me, a guy who has covered the increasingly corny craft beer business for the past decade: goofy nomenclature and insidery affectations are a race to the bottom! A project like Bêvèrãgęš may delight drug-addled club kids, but a) that’s not a reliable focus group, on account of the drugs; b) courting said coastal scenesters will never scale into meaningful sales, and may wind up repelling middle-class/-American volume drinkers with actual discretionary income; and c) once established, it’s really hard to shed a beverage category’s reputation for urbanity and juvenility. This last part I feel particularly strongly about given my time on the beer beat. A decade after American craft brewing began to ditch the dismal aesthetic of “Buxom Blonde Ale” and “Beaver Drool IPA,” the segment is still a punchline along that axis. I’m not sure how to convince younger American drinkers that wine—traditional, natural, whatever—belongs in their hearts and fridges, I’m really not. But as the kids themselves would say, this ain’t it. If you’re trying to command a high-end pricepoint for a legitimately premium and legacy-laden beverage that’s already misunderstood—even by semi-sophisticated American drinkers!—Bêvèrãgęš’ approach is never gonna do it at scale. There’s merit in redesigning the wine segment’s aesthetic for a younger U.S. audience, don’t get me wrong. But if I was putting together the mood board, it’d be more “White Lotus in Sicily” and less “white kids in Queens.” And a lot less unnecessary punctuation.