“No one past the age of 35 wants to hear new music,” my wife said to me this past weekend, in response to overhearing someone in the bar next to us ask the cover band if they planned on playing any new material. We were at Idle Hour in North Hollywood, kicking back with a few Bloody Maries, listening to a guitar and fiddle duo crank out a Bluegrass-inspired version of “Fly” by Sugar Ray—and loving every minute of it. The person next to us, however, found it rather cliché.
“There’s a certain period in your life where music imprints on to your brain, and then that’s it,” my wife continued; “You get old and just want to hear the same songs over and over.” She clearly did not want to hear anything original from these two. She wanted familiarity. She was basking in the nostalgia vibrating from those strings. She wanted to hear the hits, and I was in complete agreement; especially when they broke into “Last Dance With Mary Jane” by Tom Petty.
It reminded me of my early retail days, back when I was first learning how to work with wine customers. Being a novice in the industry, the only advice I could share with our clientele was based on my own experience, of which I had very little. One day an old timer came into the store and began asking me about our classified growths from Bordeaux, and I didn’t know a thing about any of them. Never one to shy away from an opportunity, I tried my best to steer the conversation over to the few wines I did have experience with, namely some of the less expensive wines from Spain and Italy, along with a few California Cabernets. The guy looked at me like I was alien, then proceeded right back to asking about the wines of Margaux and St. Julien.
After he finally selected a bottle and left the store, my colleague Thornton Jacobs leaned over and said to me: “David, there’s a reason the great wines of France are the great wines of France.” Then he walked away without saying another word.
It took me a few days to understand what he meant, but I eventually figured it out: no matter how much great wine is made elsewhere in the world, there’s something about the great wines of France that continues to draw people in. You have to make peace with that as a wine professional. You can always lead customers to new waters, but you can’t necessarily make them drink. The hits are the hits for a reason. Try as you might to diversify the playlist, the masses like dancing to familiar tunes.
And listening to them while we drink a Bloody Mary.