The first summer I was in this business, I met a lot of people from other countries. A lot. It was a whole new world for me. I had only traveled out of the country once and it was to England and Ireland. The speak English there, so it wasn’t difficult to communicate. But I remember it being very difficult sometimes to explain to guests from other countries what tasting options were and finding ways to talk about each wine.
Well, times have changed on many levels. Maybe it’s the places I’ve been working, but I think it’s mostly the economy. I definitely don’t see as many international travelers as I used to. I’ll bet there are numbers out there to back up my theory, but I’m going to go with my gut on this one.
So today two couples walk in the tasting room and announce to me that they are from Italy. And that was about all the English they knew. And that statement way surpassed the Italian I knew. I was thinking to myself, “crap, why didn’t I pay attention to my friends who are teaching their daughter Italian (and English)”! I finally understood that they were from a wine growing region in Italy called Verona. So, I quickly jumped on the computer and looked it up. It is located in north-east Italy and they are known for the red grape Amarone.
But here’s where things got interesting. They were very curious about the growing regions in California. But how do I convey all the differences and explain that this grape grows here, but not over there and the elevation of this area here is better suited for this type of grape. Well, credit the internet. I quickly looked up conversion calculators so they could understand the differences in temperatures, elevations and land use, like acres, and converted all the different things I usually talk about with guests to ‘Italian’. They pulled out their Italian to English dictionary and before long we were talking wine!
It was an education for me too. I’d never really thought about all the different ways that international visitors see and understand wine country. And even though I couldn’t speak Italian and they couldn’t speak English, we both could speak wine. And there we have it, my epiphany of the day: wine is the international language. Nearly every country has some form of wine they produce and let’s be honest, it’s all pretty much the same idea. Grapes get crushed, fermented, barreled and bottled. In some countries it never makes it to the bottle and is sold right from the winery’s barrels or tanks to the consumer. But the general idea is the same: grow grapes, crush them and drink.
So, for all of you out there that thought that love was the international language – I have news for you. It’s wine.