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  • Writer's pictureKelly Liang

Wine tasting, reimagined.

“What’s the best, most expensive wine you’ve had?”

The CEO of my first wine job asked this question shortly after I joined. At the time, I couldn't answer. I felt little, uncultured, and out of place. It didn't even occur to me to challenge his equating price with quality.

This wasn't an experience unique to me. Such snobbish, gatekeeping attitudes could be contributing to a broader trend: younger generations gradually distancing themselves from wine. In the US, only 21% of alcohol-drinking 21 to 29-year-olds regularly choose wine. In the UK, the appeal of wine has dipped from 37% in 2010 to just over 26% among those aged 18-39.

So, how can we rejuvenate wine's image for a younger audience?

I don't have a definitive answer. However, I started exploring what is possible with esea contemporary, a unique art museum in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. With its mission to champion diversity and inclusion, esea shared my vision of (re)imagining what an informative, dynamic and enjoyable experience of wine could look like.

Instead of choosing wines based on the standard criteria such as vintage, region, and grape variety, I curated a list centred on beauty and storytelling. This included an English sparkling wine, reflecting winemaker Emma Rice’s global odyssey and her dedication to nurturing future talent; a bold Georgian amber wine, reminiscent of current exhibition’s artist Dinu Li's creativity and audacity; a Mateus rosé, often dismissed by professionals, chosen to spark conversations on mass appeal versus genuine self-expression; and a Chilean Carmenere, encapsulating Chile's remarkable transformation from the Spanish empire's poorest colony, through a dark times of military dictatorship, to the flourishing democracy I admire today.

Kelly Liang esea contemporary charity wine tasting workshop colour and corks
The eclectic, unapologetic and thought-provoking selection of the trial session | Photo by Kelly Liang

Yet, experimentation often comes with its set of challenges. While I introduced the fortified wine, Rainwater, to delve into Madeira's fascinating history, its inherent sweetness, rather than its storied past, proved divisive.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Many attendees felt as if a friend, rather than an aloof expert, had introduced them to the world of wine. To my delight, one participant aptly summarised the sentiment: “It’s like being welcomed to the world of wine by a friend.”

Showing genuine passion and fostering an inviting, inclusive atmosphere are pivotal to resonating communication. This holds true for wine, as it does for any field.

As we chart the course for wine's future, the imperatives are clearer than ever: inclusivity, encouragement, and innovation. Through this monthly tasting workshop at esea contemporary, my goal is to spotlight wine's essence: not merely as a drink but as a testament to the passion and commitment of those behind each bottle.

Join us for our next session on Thursday, 28 September with the overarching theme of “roots & routes”. Be part of this exciting journey!

ESEA heritage month celebration tasting workshop in Manchester by Kelly Liang at A Thousand Glasses


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