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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pink Wine, Once Tacky, Is Suddenly Prestigious

There are no constants in this market or any market

When you are a young adult, you look for the fixed laws of the social universe. When I became old enough to drink, I had a mentor (his name was Cody, and he knew all) who explained what he described as certain fixed laws.

A real man never drinks a cocktail with a straw. Check.

A real man never drinks a cocktail out of a coconut shell. Check.

There are three kinds of wines: white served cold, red served room temperature, and pink. Pink is horrible and tacky. Never drink it.


Down with the Pink

To my amazement, the wine of choice at this high-end party was…pink! And so I set out on my journey of life with all the essentials. For the whole of it, I held firm to these rules, particularly the one concerning pink wine. When I would see it, I would sneer knowingly. I would never touch the stuff. When someone would order it, my mind would whisper to itself: “n00b!”

I knew what was true. Some people, probably because of poor breeding or whatever, apparently did not.

As the years went on, more and more people caught on to the truth about wine. Pink seemed to be nearly extinct from the planet earth. I can’t remember seeing anyone partake in many years.

All that changed in early 2016. I was at a dinner and a friend walked up to the cash bar and ordered pink wine. I was amazed they served it at all. Then, in a teasing but not teasing way, I drew attention to what she had done. I explained that this was a major faux pas. She didn’t care and proceeded to drink and then order a second glass.

I was aghast.

Still, I took note, and noted the prominence of pink wine at the grocery store I visited the next day. It was everywhere, sold by the case, in the most conspicuous spots in the wine section. What could be happening here? Surely it is a fluke.

The Malleability of Snobbery

A few months later, I attended a private gathering of some extremely fashionable people, some of whom were certifiable wine snobs. To be sure, I had long ago rejected wine snobbery in general – coming to the conclusion that the best wines are the plainest ones. Wine should be a drink of life, not a ritualized display to demonstrate class. Still, one has to respect people who think otherwise, subscribing to all the best journals on the subject.

To my amazement, the wine of choice at this high-end party was…pink! To be sure, the host called it blush or perhaps rose or perhaps something else. It had a fancy French name that I can’t remember. He sipped with deep appreciation. The only thing that stood out to me was the astonishing fact that it was pink.

What was going on here? What happened to the fixed law of the social universe I had learned in my youth? Are there no immutable truths, no permanent things in this world, bedrock principles of behavior that are finally beyond dispute? Why were these people so intent on this act of creative destruction?

Up with Pink

This all changed in 2016, even just this Spring. And so I tried it. Crucially, I tried it with a different attitude. This is not tacky. It is fashionable. Maybe it is wonderful. A tiny tweak in my thinking and, ta da, it turns out that pink wine is absolutely delightful. It is fun. It is refreshing. It is clean and effervescent. It is the perfect balance: the clarity of wine with just a hint of tannin from the grape skin.

It turns out that you can make a pink wine out of any grape. Some are dry. Some are sweet. Some have bubbles. You can try thousands of them, exploring a seemingly infinite universe.

And now that you know, have a look at the bar at the finest restaurants. You will see. He is drinking pink. She is drinking pink. They ordered a bottle of pink. The waiters recommend it.

It’s taking over! And I’m happy about it.

How did this happen? It’s just one of those things. One wine entrepreneur pushed it out at the right time in the right way in a world that was ready for it, for whatever reason. The right people tried it and they suggested it to their friends, and they to their friends. And the tipping point came. It was suddenly just the thing to do.

So far as I can tell, this all happened in 2016, maybe just this spring.

It’s All in the Mind

No one knows for sure what is or is not valuableWas I wrong before? Not necessarily. Am I right now? Not necessarily. Times change, fashions change, tastes change. What was tacky became prestigious, and this will undoubtedly change again.

And why? Because the human mind is adaptive. It creates, destroys, reacts, rejects, embraces, celebrates, and destroys again. All economic value extends from it. Nothing in this world is inherently valuable or valueless because of its physical properties. Everything that has value obtains it because we ourselves give it value. Nothing else matters.

That’s some serious power that the human mind has. It rules the world.

What if you are a central planner and someone twenty years ago tasked you with setting wine production goals? You might have looked around to see that clearly pink was dead. You would have been right. Until you weren’t right anymore. If you stuck with your plan, you would become wrong. Impose it despite the change and you end up holding back humanity from its highest aspirations.

No one knows for sure what is or is not valuable, what is or is not the right way. My mentor, bless his heart, might have  been correct when he taught me. But he is wrong today. Time moves forward. What was true before is untrue now…until it becomes true again, all because of the restlessness of the human mind and heart.

No one can or should change this. And this is why we need freedom, not just to think and change our minds, but also for institutions to constantly adapt to those changes.

And who knows? Maybe by 2017, I’ll be sipping through a straw a cocktail served in a coconut shell, and it will be the right thing to do.