Dr. Dave Quips That Assessing the World of Wine is No Longer Simple
When I’m back home in the States I hear from folks that tell me they have visited Italy. When I ask where they visited, they tell me “Rome, Naples, Venice, and Pisa! It hurts when I tell them, they have not seen the “real” Italy. Italy is a lot more than Rome and Naples. Likewise, America is a LOT more than Orlando and Las Vegas.
I’ve noticed the same approach to wines with so many of my wine friends. When they tell me they have visited Burgundy, and all they have seen is the Cote D’ Or, they don’t understand that they have missed the five other world renown regions of Burgundy. Imagine touring the Empire State Building and thinking you have “seen” New York City. Or how about driving up Hwy 29 in Napa Valley, boasting that you now “know” Napa? Likewise, visiting Woodenville (North of Seattle) does not mean you have seen Washington wine country (which is 6 hours away from Woodenville).
I lived in Washington D.C. for 3 years. There was the “A” list of things to see (White House, the Mall, the Memorials, the Capital, Vietnam Wall, Arlington, etc.). The “B” List included Mount Vernon, the Supreme Court, the Harbor, any other Smithsonian museum, the Air and Space, Annapolis, etc. And there was the “C” list, the “D” list, and finally, “just” Washington D.C. You can apply this approach to any city, region or country in the world……and that includes wine regions.
If you’re visiting Tuscany, and taking a day tour, you’ll probably hit Florence, Siena and enjoy a lunch that includes samples of the regional wines. That’s the “A” list. It’s a trip set up for tourists to see the things tourist come to Italy to see. But if you really want to learn what Tuscany is all about, including it’s terroir and range of wines, you need to dig way deeper. You need to visit the estates, speak with the vintners about its history and winemaking approach and above all, taste the range of wines!
I recall being saddened by my first trip to the Skywalk over the Grand Canyon to see Native Americas pretending to live in Tee Pees, and dance around the fire for all the Las Vegas tourists flown in to see the “real” west and the Grand Canyon……This represents part of the “I’ve seen Arizona “A” list.” The same could be said for visiting Venice. A gondola ride DOES NOT qualify for having seen Venice. It simply qualifies for a very expensive touristy rip off!!
Likewise, drinking $15 bottle of Sonoma Valley pinot noir does not mean that you understand the length and breadth of Pinot Noir. There are a wide range of styles from the simple to the complex. And what about the Pinots from Oregon, Burgundy, New Zealand and more, each with their own terroir driven profiles?
Just because I tried one bottle of red or white Bordeaux does not mean I have an understanding of Bordeaux. It’s more complicated than that, just as visting Tuscany is more than just seeing Florence or Siena.
Every day I meet new students who start off with the words “I don’t like white wine.” It may be that their white wine experience consisted of a single bottle of cheap, simple California Chardonnay. For them, this single experience was the “end all/be all” in the judgement of white wines around the world. However, when I ask if they have ever enjoyed a bottle of the famed Chardonnay based white Burgundy Batard Montachet, they look at me with a blank stare.
Or perhaps their experience with reds consisted of the wrong Cabernet Sauvignon for the wrong time and place. Or it may have simply been a bottle of cheap wine. Don’t judge America by Orlando and Las Vegas, Tuscany by Florence and certainly wines by one single tasting experience. The world of wine is too complicated for such a simple approach.
Before you jump to judgment about a varietal (Chardonnay) or style (whites), be fair and try a wide ranging sample of terroirs. If it’s Chardonnay, try those from California, from Burgundy, Italy, New Zealand, Australia and (Mendoza) Argentina. And if it’s the world of whites, try the nearly endless universe of alternatives from around the globe. If after all this, you still don’t like the grape or the style, then you have a fair gripe. But until you have completed this exercise, the most you can say is that Chardonnay or the whites you have had up until now were not your favorites.
American’s are quick to judge. One time and their mind is set. Tried, didn’t like it, got the t-shirt.
Until next time…..drink good wine