The Rise Of The Wine Hipster

There is a new species of wine creature. One so esoteric and geeky that you will either be frightened by them or admire them for their understanding and knowledge.

I am talking about the wine “hipster.” You have probably seen them with a string of a dozen glasses in front of them at the newest wine bar and expounding the differences between Marzemino and Teroldego. This creature is the newest in the evolution of the wine fanatic.


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A deep and brooding Cab. Photos from Roberto Viernes

The wine fanatic was borne from the wine drinker who was able to travel to visit the world’s classic growing regions and bring back their knowledge and examples of the wines to their native lands. This gave rise to wine importers, who spread their wares and the infection of wine fanaticism to others.

This gave rise to the sommelier. The sommelier is a unique blend of knowledge, service and fanatic – a person truly passionate about wine and sharing its pleasure and knowledge with others.

With the eternal magic and connectivity of the Internet and social networking, an even younger generation of wine fanatics has arisen, and they are now at the forefront of the promotion and enjoyment of wine for the world – the hipster.

These 20- and 30-something-year-olds have been drinking fine wine since their college days – and I’m not talking wines in a box or the Two-Buck Chucks of the world. They have been weaned on seriously fine wines from the cellars of their parents, older friends and siblings. They either currently work or have worked at some of the slickest wine addresses as busboys, waiters and sommeliers, where the dress code is strict and upscale. But left to their own devices, these young wine fanatics are more comfortable in jeans and vintage T-shirts. Quite often, they sport tattoos in not-so-secret places, maybe on the neck, arm or wrist. Some could be mistaken for grunge band hopefuls.

But they all share an insatiable thirst for two things.

The first, as you could guess, are the finest of wines. I’m talking the upper crust, the top echelon of wines – the harder to get, the better.

We’re talking DRC, Rousseau, Leflaive, Lafon, Allemand, Chave, Harlan, Scarecrow, Aubert, Quintarelli, Gaja, etc. They spend every penny they have on sucking up the finest fermented beverages the world has to offer.

Second, they seek the next, the newest and sometimes the most esoteric wines. Who do you think is drinking all of that fine Sherry, or who is to be given the credit or blame for the “orange” wine movement? Their pursuit of the “unknown” wine grape or wine region knows no bounds. Corsica, China and the Caucasus Mountains are now in their sights.

And at the same time, the hipster cares nothing for ratings or critical acclaim of the wines they drink. In fact, they are proud to contradict ratings from famous publications, eschewing them as unimportant in their world of exploration and pursuit of deliciousness. By definition, the wine hipster will taste anything: wine, beer, spirits, sake, liqueurs of all origins and flavors.

They are at the cutting edge of the wine industry, pushing and breaking the envelope – almost like rebels. Are they the most enlightened?

Recommendations: 2011 Barnett Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain ($75) Holy cow! Is this stuff rich or what? It is deep and brooding, with bass notes galore and a perfectly ripe blackberry core. The extract level is high and impressively long. 2012 Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc ($20) What a zinger! I would have thought this a Sancerre if not for the label. It is mineral-laden, bright and citrusy, and beautifully long. This is a fabulous bottle.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. Email or follow him on Twitter @Pinotpusher.