Progressive Drinking: A New Way to Buy, Drink, and Learn About Wine
At the Urban Grape in Boston’s South End, owners TJ and Hadley Douglas upend wine-shop conventions by organizing bottles from light-bodied to full-bodied rather than by varietal or region. They call this the “Progressive Scale”—a way of buying, drinking, and learning about wine that they expand upon in their interactive, incredibly approachable wine guide, Drink Progressively ($27, Spring House Press).
F&W: You’re married, and you run a store together. How does that work?
H: Separation of church and state is essential! TJ’s the wine buyer and director of sales staff, and I oversee our communications and events teams.
TJ: Hadley puts it a great way: She sells the store, and I sell what’s in it.
F&W: What’s drinking progressively?
TJ: It means thinking of wine from light-bodied and high-acid to fuller, with more fruit. It’s like doing a dinner—you start with a cold salad with a tart dressing, then your richer entrée.
H: The best thing about our store is that people come in with their wine blinders on—“I only drink Cab,” “I hate Chardonnay,” whatever—and we’re able to help them break out of those boxes. Drinking progressively really allows your palate to change and grow.
F&W: What inspired you to turn this concept into a book?
H: So much of what’s out there about wine makes it seem overly difficult and esoteric. We wanted to take all that pressure off, to write something that would give people a toehold so they wouldn’t have to remember thousands of varietals and regions every time they go into a wine store.
F&W: You’ve mentioned not wanting to write a wine encyclopedia. How is Drink Progressively different?
TJ: Starting at a very basic level makes people feel more comfortable with trying new things. This book is fun; it’s not scary. It’s got great pictures and amazing recipes, and our whole goal is to help take the intimidation out of wine.
H: I love to cook and pair the right wine with what I’m eating, and if you take away those varietal or regional rules and just say, “Let’s pair this body to body, acid to acid, fat to fat”—that’s much more how my mind works. I really am the everyday wine drinker!
F&W: You’re both advocates for promoting all kinds of diversity within the wine world. Is that an uphill battle?
H: Obviously we’re an interracial couple; increasing the number of people who feel comfortable with wine through all demographics is hugely important for us. But diversity within the wine world, whether we’re talking the ratio of men to women, or people of color to white people, is still woeful.
TJ: As an example, when I worked as a sommelier at the Nantucket Wine Fes-tival, there was me and DLynn Proctor, the guy in the movie Somm, and someone mistook me for him—and I’m 50 pounds heavier and about 6 inches taller. I’d like to see more of an effort. It’s gonna take time, but our goal is to make wine comfortable for everyone.
5 Progressive Picks
TJ and Hadley’s top picks for the season.
2017 Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois Vin De France ($18)
“We love this light, fresh Gamay—think of it as pure, unadulterated ‘grape lemonade.’ Toss it in the fridge, and then serve it chilled.”
2016 Powell & Son Riverside Gsm ($22)
“If you like big, full-bodied wines, then you’ll love this Aussie Rhône-style blend. The sun-soaked grapes are naturally full-bodied—yet it stays bright.”
2017 Foucher-Lebrun Le Mont Sancerre ($30)
“This particular Sancerre that we stock is ethereally light-bodied, with zingy minerality and exalting acidity. It would be perfect paired with oysters!”
2016 Copain Les Voisins Chardonnay ($32)
“This Chardonnay’s malolactic fermentation and oak aging beef up the wine’s body, pushing it to the far end of our Urban Grape Progressive Scale.”
2013 Château Durfort-Vivens Vivens Margaux ($40)
“Reds in the middle of the scale value structure and tannin over fruit and juiciness. Like Chianti, this Bordeaux needs food to truly come alive.”