Can we please move on from 'gateway' wines?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yesterday, I ran into a friend of mine that I haven’t seen in ages.  Of all places, we were in Target and wound up talking for over an hour.  She asked me when was the next time that I was going to have a wine class, but really was referring to the wine tastings that I was doing.  You see, the last time that we talked via FaceBook, it was from her responding to a profile update of mine on a wine that I was drinking.  She in turn, admitted that she was drinking a White Merlot, which is honestly not that much of a difference than drinking White Zinfandel (she was surprised later on in the day to find out that there is actually Zinfandel wine and that Zinfandel is a red grape).  

As we chatted away about life, dating (she was asking me about men), and wine, the discussion expanded in regards to what was good to serve and what to stay away from.  As she went back to asking what’s the issue with White Merlot, she talked about how White Zinfandel was what she drank during her freshman year of high school, and the thoughts that one had during those experiences (they really thought that they were drinking wine).  Well, I remember those days, and those same thoughts.  But the fact is that some people still haven’t moved past that [level of] wine.

White Zinfandel, White Shiraz, White Merlot and White Grenache [and whatever else they are putting ‘White’ in front of] are nothing more than gateway wines, as how marijuana is considered a gateway drug, and should be treated pretty much the same way.  You drink it for a season, and then you move into something more serious.  Oh, and I just saw Pineapple Express which was truly a hoot.

Producers and/or bottlers make these wines, which are technically blush, and give them these names because they know that non-experienced wine drinkers flock to it in droves.  What's interesting is that the most purchased wine in Pennsylvania is White Zinfandel and the largest product market for Coors Light is the Greater Philadelphia arena.  I’m not saying anything [more than I normally say], but it seems that this area has the most uncultured drinkers, no matter what the style of beverage – it took years for Chai to be offered here.  And it’s funny because we have some of the best beers producers in the country, but the "hip" folks still drink loads of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Colorado water, aka Coors Light).  Oh, you know those hip folks; they are the ones that order a drink with a certain brand of liquor in it, but can't really tell the taste between what they are ordering and fifteen different other brands (one local restaurant was busted and they found tons of empty bottles of Grey Goose next to full bottles of Smirnoff).

I was relating to her a story whereas I went into one of my favorite places to purchase wine, and while they know me as someone that enjoys a good bottle, they steered a [probably long-time] customer to some wines that I wouldn’t even serve my enemies or frienemies.  And this all brings me back to one of the reasons why I do what I do, so that the customer will develop an interest in trying something outside of the box, restaurants will serve something outside of what they’ve been pushed by liquor distributor reps, and those in wine stores will actually start to engage the average and first-time customers with something more than the swill that they easily sell by the truckload.

There is a reason that you never see me in a large number of restaurants; I refuse to slum on my wine palate.  I don't need you to carry a bottle that retails for $50, but I definitely need something that wasn’t part of some mass-produced market dominating crap by some capitalist with a “let them eat cake” mentality who is offering me that crap (for the record, Marie Antoinette actually said 'cats' instead of 'cake,' but it was lost in the translation).

Please people, step outside of your comfort zones and treat your taste buds right.  Leave the "Whites" alone!

This message was brought to you by your friendly neighborhood wine vivant.

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