Friday, April 11, 2008

Read a Book!

I've had several people ask me how to start learning about wine. I don't know if I'm the best person to realize that I've only been earnest about this for about 4 years right? Mr. Choi, this isn't about you, I enjoy talking wine with you. It's about other people, who shall remain nameless.

At the moment, I'm pleased at my progress, but clearly, I will be learning new things about wine until I die. There is truly, endless knowledge and endless experiences in wine. I don't mind talking about specific bottles of wine. It's always good to see what other people are drinking.

Read a book. People want easy and fast solutions to everything. Why do you think critics are so successful these days? People just want other people to tell them what the best wines are, and want to know whether they're drinking wines with high scores or not. They want fashionable wines, and wines that make them look like they know what they're doing. There's a fantastic lack of creativity and a lack of desire to really learn things the right way. So read a fucking book.

Also there's this incredibly misguided notion that wine connoisseurship is all about identifying the different flavour elements of wine. That if you can tell that a wine tastes of strawberries and violets and hints of leather and tobacco, then wow, you're a wine expert! That's a shitload of nonsense. The Americans are to blame for this phenomenon.

In part, Robert Parker is the one most responsible. This is the easy way to taste wine. To describe wine in this manner makes sense to the general public. Everyone is more or less familiar with these tastes, and using these descriptions, people feel like they really are fully experiencing a wine. But that is a huge mistake. What about these descriptions tells you where a wine is from? The quality of the harvest and vintage? The techniques used to make the wine? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Of course, how can I forget Gary V? He makes it popular to use quite ridiculous terms to describe taste. But I suppose that's the knowledge level of the majority of his fans. It works for him, and his wine business is making lots of money, so I can't argue against that. But is it really increasing the average American's wine knowledge? I mean, one of his fans started his own blog, with his own "tasting notes" - I won't name him, I promise. And I put "tasting notes" in quotes, because I've read some of his stuff and to put it gently, it sets the American wine industry back 30 years. All the work that Robert Mondavi has done to revolutionize American wine? GONE, with the increase in people like this; the kinds that learn about wine from hyperactive online video hosts, who encourage and bloat their tasting abilities far beyond reality.

Taste is such a subjective thing. You don't need me to tell you that. So to describe all these wines in such simple terms is doing an incredible injustice to wine. Well, I shouldn't be surprised that Americans have popularized this. No matter how defensive they get, these people have simple, unrefined tastes. Come on, this is the country that invented fast food. No need to say more.

So, you want to learn about wine? Try as many different wines as you can. Try everything. Once you have a more experienced palate, and have some idea of what you're doing, it's a good idea to focus on one region, to really gain a stronger understanding of what you're putting in your mouth.

This isn't a rant. This is the truth. I don't glorify, or advertise that I enjoy wine. Wine is very personal - why does everyone need to know how much knowledge or expertise you have? So learn on your own, and then when you can talk intelligently about it, let's have a glass together. And if you ever describe a wine as having flavours reminiscent of Fruit Loops cereal and Juicy Fruit, I'll slap you right in the face. Rocky, we should however, have more wine together.


  1. lol...tell me more about this fruit loop + juicy fruit wine

  2. hahaha YES that did sound like a rant! but very well justified.. ppl just dont read anymore.. i'm looking forward to summer and being a bum = reading :D

  3. Lol, that was just an example. Hopefully I'll never have a wine like that, or ever use those terms.

    And shouldn't you be in Europe this summer, doing everything BUT reading? Come on Christie, I want to hear about the crazy things you're gonna do there!!