Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wine is as simple as ABC.
The first piece of advice I received when I decided to explore the mysteries of Bacchus' blessing came from a friend that I thought knew something about wine. I asked for his counsel on how to proceed into that somewhat intimidating world of swirl, sniff, and sip. He caught my ear with the following seduction: "Tom, it's as simple as ABC."
Wow, I could hardly wait for the details! I was salivating at the simplicity of it all. I would be an overnight wine guy. The ladies would adore me, my friends would be envious, and wine stewards and retail wine clerks would respect me. This was great stuff!
He leaned forward, looked around to see if anyone else was listening, and whispered into my ear in a hushed, almost religious tone, "Always buy Cabernet. Always buy Chardonnay."
"Yes, yes," I said, anxiously waiting for further formulaic insight that would deliver me from doubt and indecision, "What's the rest of it?"
”That's it," he said, somewhat irked at my insinuation. "That's the ABC’s of Wine. You don't have to know anything else. One's red and one's white. One goes with meat, the other goes with fish. They're the most popular. Everyone sells Cabernet, and Chardonnay, and everyone who's with it buys Cabernet and Chardonnay."
To a large extent my friend was correct. Just walk into any retail liquor/wine store and examine the shelf space occupied by those two wines—they dominate. And the next time you order wine in a restaurant, just take note of the number of Cabernets and Chardonnays on the wine list—they prevail. One goes with meat (but not all meat dishes), and one goes with fish (but not all fish dishes). Without a doubt, those two wines are the most popular ones for most wine drinkers.
Of course, I really wanted to be with it, so I tried his approach for a while. I became somewhat confident at ordering, and I even became knowledgeable about the characteristics of the two old reliables. But popularity and simplicity did not do it for me. I was not satisfied with the narrowness of my friend's recommendation. There had to be an additional perspective out there. So I approached another friend and solicited his advice. I told him I wanted to enter the kingdom of cork dorks and serious wine geeks.
He leaned forward and solemnly uttered the following: "It's as simple as ABC, Tom."
"No way, no thanks," I said, "I've already been down that narrow wine road. There's got to be more to wine appreciation than just Cabernet and Chardonnay."
"Precisely, my little cork puller, the real "ABC's of Wine" are as follows: Avoid buying Chardonnay and Avoid buying Cabernet. Not forever, don't just buy those two wines all the time. There's a wide world of wine pleasure out there, and you owe it to yourself to experience it."
Ever since that exchange, I did in fact enlarge the scope of my "pursuit," as one good friend calls it. The birthplace of wines as we know them, is in Europe, and that is where I began my study. Famous and accomplished French appellations like Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chablis, Cote Rotie, and their sub-appellations were the first to be investigated. In Spain I researched the great wines of Rioja and Ribera del Duero.
Those regions, and many more too numerous to itemize, brought forth an entirely new appreciation of wine. No longer a mere beverage, as it is for many people, wine became my hobby. I became an Oenophile, a Wine Lover.