The One Wine Conundrum

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"If you give a kid a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

If you’ve read enough of my writings, you’ll know that the one thing I want to do is to get people to experience wine, not just a few styles or varietals, but to really get a breadth and depth of what quality wines are.  And by quality, I am not talking having to purchase bottles that run upwards of fifty dollars into the hundreds, though I will occasionally mention wines that cost that much and are worth it.  I want to get people past the many false beliefs in regards to wine that people will peddle to them, either to exclude them from the club, to make them feel inferior, or to just develop a certain type of customer.

I will tell you that in order to know a wine, you need to drink that wine for several years, probably consuming at least one hundred bottles of it at different price ranges, over different years and from a number of different producers [usually from several different countries/continents for some of the most widely available varietals].

However, in the past two weeks, I came across two different women who both said that they are into red wines, and when I asked what they drink, the answer came back Malbec in both cases.  To me, the root of the reason is based within the raves in wine magazines at least five years ago when there was much a ballyhoo regarding Malbec wines from South America.  Unfortunately, some people got fixated on that one concept; Malbec wines from South America.  They never tried Malbec wines from France, learned more about Malbec, tried other red wines from South America, or even really started looking at different offerings based on price range. 

That damned hammer concept again.

As I was thinking about this the other day, and that so many martial arts flicks were being shown on AMC at night, I realized that I could possibly allow you to understand this from that area/discipline.

When I was growing up, I remember going to the drive-in and seeing martial arts movies; they were usually kung fu flicks.  I could see those movies at a local theater called The Capitol, and at some point in time, they would be shown on the UHF channels on programs with names like “Black Belt Theater.”  Now, right there is the first issue, being that most of the movies used kung fu, and there are no black belts in most Chinese martial arts; Japanese and Korean, yes.

As children and teenagers, we would always wonder and pontificate about which styles of martial arts were the best, and who could beat who.  I knew people who took either Tae Kwon Do or Shotokan Karate, but no one that took Kung Fu.  At one point in time, when the cheesy ninja movies came out, we were all enthralled by them, but most people don’t realize that ninjitsu’s roots are in China’s Lin Kuei, and that even Korea has their Kuk Sool Won.  And then, no one could compare to Bruce Lee, the dragon.

Just like martial arts, which have no one specific root – there is Pankreton from the Greeks and even in Africa there were a number of martial arts disciplines – there are several root families of wine grapes, and they migrated, evolved and mutated, cross-bred, and so on and so on.  Just like martial arts, where something was invented and as it spread it formed the basis of something else, or parts of it were taken to make something else, so has been the life of wine grapes.  Cabernet Franc led to Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Pinot Noir led to Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinotage and a slew of other grapes.  Bruce Lee, like a great winemaker, took his foundation of Wing Chun, added in African American slapboxing and streetfighting, French Savate and some other stuff and along the way produced his Jeet Kun Do.  And no one can argue with the brilliance and phenomenal abilities to Bruce.

Some martial arts evolve as you get higher in rank, and some martial artists evolve as well.  I remember Jet Li’s character in “Fearless” talking with his Japanese opponent on saying that the limit Is not the art form, but the user.  This basically correlates with Musashi Miyamoto’s premise that if you truly understand the way of the sword, you can understand the fight without even needing to use a sword.  At some point, you understand the path and through emptiness (ku) can begin to grasp and understand then next steps; you know form and you understand that which doesn’t have it.

Just like martial artists, there are a ton of wine drinkers who only see up through their level of experience.  There are people so ingrained in one art style, that they can easily be beaten by someone with a low ranking in another style or form.  One of my favorite movies is “Challenge of the Ninja” when a Chinese husband insults the martial arts styles of his Japanese wife in an attempt to get her to come back home.  His letter is read by her sensei and a bunch of Japanese masters come to challenge him.  His ignorance in accepting a gesture of respect from his first win infuriates all the others and he has to then fight each one, himself using a different set of tactics and weapons in each battle.

As we never know what the other person knows, or what they can see and feel, there is no way to guestimate a person’s abilities; martial artist.  Wine is the same as you can take a varietal like Sauvignon Blanc, and despite the genetic differences in those grown in France, in Italy, in South Africa, in New Zealand and Australia, etc., make a similarly tasting wine or something totally different.  Knowing that in most cases, you don’t have wines which are one hundred percent one grape varietal, that also will tell you that you can never truly know one wine.  You can be experienced with it, but there is no complete knowledge of it.  You can’t whip out that hammer.

I am not going to say that Malbec is a fad, but pretty much there is a fad every year or so when it comes to the wine industry.  What I mean by this is that you have these periods where so many magazines and organizations are talking about wine from one place or another, and it gets a huge commercial boost.  Some producers will even rip up vineyards of one grape and plant another just to take advantage of this.  However, good wine is good wine, and wine is a business where you are really into it for the long haul and not the short yardage.  Some wines will become less expensive to compete with so many others in the market, and at those times the market will usually be also flooded with not just some low-quality versions of that product, but also counterfeit product at that (it will be labeled as one thing, but will actually be another).

Just like being a serious martial artist, if you want to become a serious wine drinker, you’re going to have to not only really delve into truly understanding you favorite varietal, but also try other things.  Either they will reinforce your view or open it up to new things.

There was a time when I really was a fan of Allegro Moscato and purchased it crazily; that time was so long ago.

P.S.  The Malbec craze was five years ago; update your wine game.


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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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