Tuesday, September 15, 2015
The ABCs of Wine.
The following was my first article posted in 2010. Originally it was emailed to and read only by a few friends, but after a few Internet surfers took a peek at it, the post seemed get some legs and began to be passed around. It has been slightly updated, but please enjoy:
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. My scope was to go beyond grape varietals and appellations, at least in the beginning. I wanted to know it all. Where wine was first "discovered" and by whom? Which countries were the first major producers and why? Who first democratized wine? Who were the best producers in Europe and elsewhere? Why do some countries produce better wines than others? Why are appellations an importance concept? What distinguishes a good wine from a great wine?
Those questions created new ones for me, and my quest seemed, and is, never ending. As one topic led me to another, it brought forth an entirely new appreciation of wine. No longer the very simple "ABCs of Wine," it now became "The A Through Z of Wine." I became a confirmed Wine Lover, an Oenophile. The search goes on . . . .