Good Will Hunting

Sunday, May 17, 2015

On the eve of going to the French consulate in New York to taste some Bordeaux wines, I chose to start writing this series which will be the blueprint for the endeavor of people of color diving into the world of wine.  It’s auspicious that the tasting of French wines is tomorrow, because one of the things that I want to do is to make people realize that the French are not the end-all and be-all of wines and that they – the people – have no reason to lean in that direction.

I chose to name this article as such because of the scene in the movie where Will picks apart the smarmy asshole in the bar who is trying to impress several women with his “knowledge.”  While doing this, he not only points out how this guy’s opinions will change based on what he will be reading over the course of his academic studies, but also that this person has no original thoughts. 

My life with wine has evolved over the past three decades quite so interestingly that I must admit that it actually is over four decades.  As a child, I was allowed to try things like sake, and of course I was exposed to some of the crappy beverages which technically make the grade of the simplest definition of wine.  This included strange names like Mogen David (MD 20/20) and Thunderbird (technically an aperitif) as well as some Kosher concord grape wine.  Hey man, I was born in 1970.  High school would have me getting acquainted with wine coolers and that horrid abomination known as White Zinfandel.  While I had transitioned to beer in college and the Navy, I was exposed to Boone’s Farm while at Penn State.  For the next few years, probably everything came from a 1.5L bottle or was something that I wouldn’t drink today even if you paid me; well, depends on how much you are willing to pay me.

Now, this brings me up to the past fifteen years, where I first started dealing with Chenin Blanc and Madeira as well as Chardonnay.  At this time, I was content with Sutter Home and also was into Allegro Moscato.  Over this time, I started to transition to not only better grades of wine, but also to start exploring wine from different regions.  I can tell you that it has been an interesting and exciting journey.

With all of that said, the first thing that I can say is that for so long, like many other people, I was intimidated by the conversations and exchanges I would see and hear in regards to wine.  You know, they were the ones in which a waiter would present the wine list and beam when someone made what was considered a good selection.  Or they were the ones in which people would beam about wines from certain producers and from certain vintages (years of harvest). 

And what I found out was the most of it is total bullshit!

This is not to say that some of the people weren’t genuine in their reflections, but that for the most part their experiences and knowledge was merely the recitations of what they read and only falls into a narrow field of focus.

The reality of the world of wine is that if you were to taste one different type, style, and implementation of wine from the day you were born until the day you died, and you lived to be one hundred years old, you would still have only experienced one third of the total amount of wines – not wines by producer – that exist in the world.  All this means one major thing, which is that there are no wine experts!  Sure, some people have a lot more experiences than others, but breadth and depth are two things to be considered in that conversation.

I have met a ton of label-whores and other folks who want to opine/whine on about this one French producer or another, and who have very little true knowledge about wine.  It’s like talking to someone who is a vehement practitioner of Tae Kwon Do, and yet has no knowledge or appreciation of a number of other martial arts styles and forms. 

If you give a child a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The first thing to understand and realize in trying to understand wine, and in jumping into its world, is that there are more talkers than people who are experienced.  It doesn’t matter if they’ve tasted some of the highest rated vintages of French wine over the past one hundred years, if they haven’t taken the time to get to know and understand the wines of other places, as well as track the roots of many of the grapes even grown in France, then they are far more ignorant than they even realize.

The second thing to understand is that while you might want to sound knowledgeable about wine in whatever situation you might be a part of, what will come will come and it will take time for you to amass that knowledge. 

I can honestly tell you that in being a Leo, I have a lot of pride and confidence in what I bring to the table, and the hardest thing to do is to actually humble myself and try to approach something with a totally open mind and being willing to learn and be quiet.  While I might not agree with everything I hear, sometimes the best thing to do is to experience what you can, and keep experiencing what you can until you can understand things better and then make your own informed decisions along with your opinions.

Next, I tackle the basic different types of wine(s).


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Our Mission: The Black Winer strives to expose African Americans [and others] to wines, without the flair, stuffiness, and airs of elitism and snobbery that you get from sommeliers and high level wine enthusiasts. We believe in finding something that you like the taste of, outside of the basic brands that you have been force-fed over the years through a combination of ethnically targeted advertising, and what people in your family have historically been drinking.

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