No Need To Whine, It's Just Wine
The wine scene in this country is in need of a demystifying makeover. No one is really sure where it all began, but for some reason in the US there is a perception attached to wine which makes people think that it’s only for the sophisticated upper crust. Not quite the case. Wine has been around since the dawn of man and has been a staple beverage throughout history. In Europe wine bridges many socio-economic groups bringing people together. Young and old, rich or poor; wine is a vital part of everyday European life. So why is it considered so uppity here? Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an answer.
I’ve been thinking of this issue for quite some time and I’m firmly of the belief that folks could use a few helpful hints to navigate this unfamiliar terrain. Just so you know that I’m not crazy person off the street wanting to wax-poetic about this stuff, I’ve been in the wine biz for about 12 years and love to turn people on to something new. I’ve put together a few “suggestion” on how best to understand what’s going on:
Suggestion #1: Drink what you like. Ask yourself, “Does this taste good?” If the answer is not “Yes”, you probably shouldn't be drinking it. Taste is 'subjective', but folks always try to make it 'objective', especially when it comes to wine. There is no right or wrong answer. If you like Brussels sprouts, great; if you don't, no worries.
Suggestion #2: If you regularly buy wine or want to start buying wine, find a good retailer. And by a good retailer, I mean an actual person who can answer your questions. Many grocery stores have great wine sections, but the kid stocking potato chips isn’t always the best choice for a recommendation. On that note, don't be afraid to ask for recommendations. Let the retailer know your budget and what you've had in the past that you’ve liked or disliked. Approach their ideas with an open mind. The wine you thought you hated might just have been a bad bottle. Don't write anything off until you are sure. A good way to scout a good retailer is to give them your evening menu and have them pair a wine or two that matches the food. If they do a good job, try them again. This is also true for restaurants. Don't be intimidated to ask for a wine recommendation. Your server should know what pairs well with the food and look forward to giving you great service.
Suggestion #3: Wine ratings are an arbitrary number, so take them with a grain of salt. I've had plenty of low rated wines that I thought were just great. The rating is relevant only if you share a similar palate to the person rating the wine. It's easy to get lost in a mirage of flowery adjectives. I've often said wine ratings are like movie ratings. Think of the big Hollywood blockbusters that sweep the Oscars, break box office records, and receive a ton of press. Those who are paid to know movies would rate these high, but you can still dislike it no matter what a critic says. 'Titanic' comes to mind. I thought it was painful to watch, yet it got a ton of awards and praise. A movie like 'Caddyshack', which I've seen more than 200 times and will probably watch another 200 times before the curtain falls, received no real praise, no awards, but to me it's a great movie. It's all personal preference.
Suggestion #4: If you have the desire to learn more about wine, my suggestion is to taste, read, and taste some more. Nearly every city has a wine tasting or two happening somewhere most days of the week. Go check them out. Many are free or cost just a few bucks. Try a bunch of new things and find out not only what you like, but why you like it. There are also a ton of books on wine that can tell you more than you may ever want to know. Ask your new friend Retailer which ones they find helpful. The important thing is that you are enjoying yourself.
Finally, always remember that it’s just a beverage; grapes gone bad or grapes gone good, depending on your perspective. So tip a glass to your new friend Wine, I’m already one ahead of you.