The democratisation of wine? We’re not quite there yet – wine is still more difficult to buy, and consume than it needs to be. My nose gets rubbed in it each time I take out lunch from one of the trendy mobile food trucks that park along the Ta’ Xbiex seafront.
Burger & chips take-away vans found at village feasts these aren’t. The latest regiment of food trucks that’s taken to Malta’s streets, literally, is manned by cool, talented chefs who’re changing the street food recipe and cooking for a markedly different clientèle.
Their success isn’t all about their culinary talent, the location or even the food – and definitely not the wine. As a matter of fact, I yet have to find one single modern food truck that actually stocks a couple of bottles.
The food trucks are popular because they appeal to micro-communities of people that hold their fork as close as their smart phone and who’re happy to meet casually for a quick bite in the real world. The hip food truck feeds a sort of social melting pot of any kind of person you can think of who’s craving fresh, healthier, authentic and often ethnic or themed food served promptly and without the pricier frills of a full-experience restaurant.
These four-wheeled kitchens, tweeting and facebooking their locations, opening hours and specialities of the day (such as Chicken Katsu, Ribeye Chimichuri or Nonya Laksa, for example) are on the front lines of the hospitality industry. They play their part in lowering the threshold of the real gourmet and haute cuisine eateries for a whole new generation of foodies.
The food cart concept in itself may be a riposte to rid food of snobbery and pomposity. However, the paradox and also a bone of contention for wine lovers like me is that, whilst it’s delightfully democratising the gourmet experience, our trucking chefs don’t seem to realise they’re road-blocking the liberalisation of wine simply by not offering it.
It’s precisely their Internet-connected regulars that are most open to trying wine. They tend to lavish a lot of attention to food but also to wine because it completes the meal and their lifestyle. It’s a drop of new, affordable luxury to take momentarily revenge on everyday pressures or to live and feel well.
A chance is missed. It shouldn’t be because there’re plenty of fixes for our local woodstockers of nosh to let wine trickle down. If not to help liberalise wine in the same way as they’re creating a grub buzz, they should do so for the benefit of their bottom line and self-preservation. In fact, as the competition of meals on wheels is likely to grow, it would be wise to differentiate one’s business among the mobile pack. Introducing wine into the mix is one easy way.
This article first appeared in The Times of Malta, Friday 6 May 2016