One could argue that buying wine is all about sensory and social experience. You sample the wine with sniffs and tastes, and converse with the sommelier and fellow wine-tasters.
But nowadays, some – such as writer Chang Rae Lee – prefer to purchase wine online. It’s about “convenience, efficiency, and frugality,” he says in a recent Food and Wine article. Still, he’s conflicted about his online habit:
“Frankly, I feel guilty about it, for I abhor living too much in the techno-cave, with all these meager, glowing implements; I love a lively fire in the hearth and snuggling in beside my sweet-smelling wife and drinking wine so tasty that it makes me think I can sing. Who wants to make virtual any of this life’s pleasures? Really, nobody.”
He concludes: “It turns out that I want to peek behind the digital curtain. I want to hear a human voice.” And so, time after time Lee ends up calling the wine company and chatting with its salespeople. In one case, he even schedules a trip to visit the warehouse. Lee comes to realize that the joy of consuming wine is not only in the drink itself but also in the social interactions and personal connections it fosters.
Lee’s story suggests that the web isn’t dulling our desire for human-to-human interaction. Perhaps it can actually help us better communicate with people across states, countries and cultures. And by making our tasks more convenient, efficient and frugal, we have more energy to seek out the personal relationships – oh, and the wines! – that will enrich our lives and matter to us.