The Intersecting Languages of Wine and Coffee

Woman enjoying coffeeAt first glance, I thought it was another wine-related email — one of at least 50 I receive on any given weekday. (The flow slows a little on the weekends, allowing for the flow of a little more wine at my house.)

The key word in the subject line was “Bordeaux.” My initial thought, curmudgeon-in-training that I am, was, “Probably a press release declaring another Vintage of the Century.” The French are famous for that, especially those based in Bordeaux.

(Don’t get me wrong; the wines of Bordeaux are wonderful. But when seemingly every vintage is declared the Vintage of the Century, it waters down the message a bit: The sky is falling! The sky is falling! The vintage of the century! The vintage of the century!)

Then I looked more closely at the email listing. It was from the Starbucks Store. Now it was no longer just another wine email that I’d get to later. Now it had my complete attention.

I’m an unabashed Starbucks fan. I totally buy into the concept of Starbucks stores as the “third place” in my life, right alongside my home and workplace. I try every new drink that is introduced (the reformulated Pumpkin Spice Latte is really, really good, by the way). I have gone to hear CEO Howard Schultz speak, as well as one of his former deputies who was on a book tour. I have turned my fiancée into a co-dependent Starbucks addict, and now have two gold cards instead of one to reload every few weeks. Starbucks coffee (made on my Keurig machine) will be served at our wedding, along with wine.

So, yeah, when I saw “Starbucks” and “Bordeaux” in the same subject line, that email was going to be opened quickly.

The subject line, in its entirety, was, “New this month: A sweet, Bordeaux-like flavor.” The email went on to tell me that the coffee was from Tanzania’s Mount Meru, and then noted: “A rarely used sun-drying method rewards with amazing flavors of grape jam, orange marmalade and a dark chocolate finish.” Even larger type reiterated the email’s subject line: “sun-dried to a sweet, Bordeaux-like flavor.”

As coffee drinkers become more sophisticated and demanding, I expect that they will develop a language similar to that embraced by wine lovers, including many of the same descriptive words and phrases.

Some will be general (bitter, smooth, sweet), while others will be specific (grape jam, orange marmalade, dark chocolate).

When we don’t have a beverage right in front of us, with the ability to smell and taste it, we need to be able to describe it. That’s where language comes in.

And more and more, the languages of wine and coffee are intersecting.

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Tomorrow: a report from Bordeaux. Is 2015 shaping up as the next Vintage of the Century?

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Posted in Editor's Journal
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