On a recent Friday night, a new generation of oenophiles let go of their inhibitions and embraced the wine world. Donning jeans and cocktail dresses, attendees were not your typical sippers, swirlers and sniffers. The two-night Wine Riot, the first major event from the creators of The Second Glass magazine, had two goals: Expose an emerging crowd of young drinkers to 250 wines that don’t come in a box or $10 jug. And to introduce the show’s 40 vendors to their new audience: young, eager and curious consumers.
Inside the curved brick walls of Boston's historic Cyclorama on a recent Friday night, a new generation of oenophiles let go of their inhibitions and embraced the wine world. With funky music blaring and cameras flashing in a racy photo booth, it was immediately clear: the wine snobs were not invited.
Donning jeans and cocktail dresses, attendees were not your typical sippers, swirlers and sniffers. But Wine Riot, the first major event from the creators of The Second Glass magazine, wasn’t interested in being your typical wine expo.
The two-night event had two goals: Expose an emerging crowd of young drinkers to 250 wines that don’t come in a box or $10 jug. And to introduce the show’s 40 vendors to their new audience: young, eager and curious consumers.
“Its been really nice to see that pretentiousness of wine slowly fade away as young people get into it,” said Morgan First, 25, marketing and community director at Second Glass. “But there was nothing out there that caters to this demographic and lets people ask the really basic questions.”
Until now. Events like Wine Riot – un-intimidating, un-pretentious alternatives to the highbrow tastings of the past – are giving clueless new drinkers a venue to taste and ask without the jargon or judgment.
Tyler Balliet, 28, editor of The Second Glass, founded the online magazine three years ago to help a younger crowd ease into the notoriously pretentious world of fine wine.
Together, First and Balliet have spread the message to local wine shops, where they work with owners in small-scale tastings, or Crash Course Seminars, similar to Wine Riot.
The $10 classes give small groups a chance to taste wine, ask embarrassing questions and decide what they like to drink – not what they should drink.
“One of the biggest things for us is that you’re not ‘supposed’ to like anything,” First said. “At the end of the day, was it something you want to drink again? Great. Now lets figure out what made you like that and go from here.”
The Crash Courses were so popular at Bin Ends, a Braintree wine shop that opened last May, that owners John Hafferty and Craig Drollet have expanded the idea.
The weekly classes – with names like Straight Dope on Fine Wine, Californication and Bubblicious – will be “irreverent but spot-on” introductions geared toward any level of wino.
Teaching a new generation to appreciate the good stuff isn’t just smart business – its important for drinkers to hear the stories behind wines, Hafferty said.
And that’s not something you can get from a Google search.
“I think they want to dig deeper and have an understanding of the culture,” Hafferty said. “The thing with wine is that to truly understand it, you also have to taste it. That’s where the courses come in.”
Hafferty and First agree on the most important lesson a young connoisseur can learn at such events: drinking good wine does not mean spending a pretty penny.
Second Glass rates wine based on a “baller to price” ration, and Hafferty stresses that you often get more bang for your buck with a bottle from a lesser-known vineyard than a liter of Kendall Jackson.
Its a valuable lesson for anyone who doesn’t want to forfeit their beloved summer white when money is tight, First said.
“Not that we’re happy with what’s happening to the economy, but its nice to have our message coincide with what’s going on,” she said. “Its not just the younger crowd that can benefit.”
The Patriot Ledger