Opinion: We Don’t Need a White Wine Emoji

Please stop it with this.

August 7, 2018

By David Kitai / Photo: Elle Hughes, Unsplash

Like nearly every self-identified ‘wine person’ in 2018, I spend far too much time on Instagram. It’s a distraction, I know, but how else am I going to consume all those sweet sweet bottle shots from sommeliers in London and Tokyo that I’m never actually going to meet? How else will I attempt—in vain—to get those same sommeliers to look at my bottle shots? Anxiety-inducing and prideful as it may be, the wine world, especially the natural wine world, has come to need Instagram.

So wine is already being written about in a language of hashtags and emojis. I myself overuse #naturalwine on my posts, and I enjoy a cheeky orange emoji on a post about orange wine. But, on the whole, I like that the instagrammers of the wine world go for either in-depth descriptions, or keep their posts short, clever, and largely in plain english. The wine glass emoji isn’t all that present on most of those posts.

Which is why I was a little bowled-over today when a press-release shows up in my inbox saying that Kendall Jackson claiming the title of “the winery that changed the way Americans consume wine” is “leading the charge” for a white wine emoji. The idea, so claims the press release, is to “change how the world communicates about wine.” 

Why? I asked myself, why do we need this? Right now the world is “communicating” about wine in revolutionary ways, that have little to do with emojis. Wine is being talked about with renewed interest in soil type, farming practice, and fermentation vessel. Ancient varietals from far-flung corners of the world are being tasted next to Napa and Bordeaux wines. Great writers and great instagrammers are adding huge nuance to the conversation about what wine is and can be. I’m not a red-wine snob either, in fact I tend to drink more whites. But what does this new emoji give us except another way to blithely narrow the description of what we eat and drink by reducing it to a tiny pixelated image? 

Add to the fact that, in terms of wine itself, a white wine emoji doesn’t communicate all that much. Ever had a sparkling red that feels like a mineral-driven white? Ever drank a long-aged oxidative white that smells of earth and dried fruit? And don’t get me started on the range of colours we get into when we start talking about orange wines. James Sligh, sommelier at La Compagnie in New York, recently opined on this subject—on instagram of all places—showing that when he puts a list together, a lot of wines that look red fall under his white section, and some wines that have barely a touch of colour at all fall into the reds.

His point, and mine I suppose, is that colour and flavour in wine is a spectrum. We should celebrate that spectrum and drink from every part of it. When we do share what we’re drinking, we should talk about how it makes us feel in words, not emojis. If we must use emojis, let’s pepper them in our descriptions. Or you can use that weird moon-face one because it accurately conveys mixed feelings and also makes me kinda uncomfortable.

So until we get emojis for Qvevri, basalt rock, and wild-yeast fermentation, I think we should make do with the wine glass emoji being red—or any colour really—and hope that we keep using words to talk about the rest.

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