The Times columnist has received backlash for his characterisation of “male wine bores” with their “indigo teeth” and “jowls like Regency curtain swags”, but, WLC asks, is it fair?
Giles Coren’s depiction of the wine trade’s male old guard in last week’s column ‘We need Wine Woman — I’d drink to that’ is less than kind. The “dandruff on the shoulders of their maroon blazer, the port stains on the pink shirt where the distended belly strains at the buttons, the spittle-crusted silk hanky in the top pocket” do little to ingratiate people (men in particular) who have made a career working in wine, and the restaurant critic has received backlash online for his comments.
I get that Giles Coren’s article was very funny and clever. But after more than three decades selling wine this caricature feels as real as something from Dickens. It’s like saying all people who like cars resemble Jeremy Clarkson pic.twitter.com/EkWeqtd8Tq
— Joe Fattorini (@joefattorini) May 23, 2023
“I could go a year and never meet someone like this,” presenter and wine consultant Joe Fattorini took to Twitter to comment, arguing that the characterisation is far too outdated.
And plenty agree. Anne Burchett, wine marketing and communications specialist, commented: “I’m so pleased you think so. Has he been living under a rock for thirty years? But then I suppose the piece was written to get laughs and tired clichés sometimes do the trick.”
Coren’s comments come at a time when the face of the wine trade is changing. Brad Horne is a wine communicator, educator and presenter with more than 12k Instagram followers. He told db this morning: “Maybe from outside the gold fish bowl looking in at the ‘white whale’, the wine trade male could be seen to be ‘Riesling’ drinking, ‘stained’ teeth, over-the-hill middle class gents.
“However that’s just so easy to say. With the evolution of communication and the rise of skin contact and natural wine it’s brought a new demographic to the trade from all social backgrounds, ethnicity and genders.”
Horne challenged Coren’s perception, inviting him to “jump into the tank and come to newer trade events — ‘the dirty dozen’ and ‘SiTT’ to name a few — and see how the world of wine has changed on the London wine scene”.
The profile of the average wine professional is changing, with the proportion of “rotting flecks of ham and cheese entombed in yellow molars”, as Coren puts it, on the decline. But is it changing fast enough?
Libby Brodie, CityAM’s wine columnist, believes the cliché lives on for a reason. “As a stereotype it’s very recognisable,” she told db this morning, and for good cause, as it attacks “wine snobbishness in general”, even directing it back at the author himself and his love of whisky.
Sophia Longhi, a wine blogger with 13.3k Instagram followers, sees Coren’s comments as “well written and witty, and obviously poking fun at the stereotype”. Longhi also hinted at a certain sense of irony in the pushback against Coren’s explicit criticism of men in the wine trade, noting that young women on Instagram are often the butt of the joke, and asking why there would be an issue when older men are being placed in the same position?
Thank you @gilescoren for this brilliant piece – it made me laugh out loud more than once. Read it everyone and enjoy. Now back to my presumptuous little Riesling from Botswana…
— Libby Brodie (@Libby_Brodie) May 20, 2023
Brodie added: “It doesn’t escape my notice that we still get articles written equating wine to women’s physical appearance, even naming women and shaming how they choose to age, but it is an article about a nameless male caricature that receives all the furore…
“We’ve clearly seen an increase of diversity in wine, which is fantastic, but there is a long way to go.”
This article was originally published by the drinks business and has been shared with permission.