No, you really don't know wine like you think

Monday, July 27, 2009

So, I am out with my goomba Chef Al last night, and on our final spot of the night --Bridget Foy's on South Street in Philadelphia; we came for the Sea Dog Blue Paw Wheat Ale-- when I happened across two people who I worked with years ago in an ad agency.  

As we were catching up on what everyone is doing, one of them opined about being involved when I do some tastings and having a focus group.  Of course, this was a ludicrous idea, as I review wine at any point in the day, and can even do it in my undies.  Also, I rarely share my wine with others when I am reviewing it.  As it turns out, thus person owns a market research firm (you've gotta love them, as they're always trying to position themselves to make money, and be of "use").

However, I jokingly raised the question and statement of "you don't know anything about wine."  Well, the reply was such that being that they had traveled to so many countries and drank wine, that it someone made them erudite on wine.  Additionally, they harbored that false pretense that French wine is the best, and having been there and consuming it makes one more knowledgeable about wine.  For those that know me, you know I was going to rip into this and shred it like a pack of hyenas on a water buffalo!

I then asked them to name the "best-est" wine that they have ever had, or a French wine that was over the top.  And I can say, the right answer would not be anything that was an overpriced red pre 1970 unless it would have been something like a fortified wine, a meritage or a very good Italian red… and it also couldn't be named without naming the exact producer.

Well, after two minutes, an answer came out (any person that really is into wine would've probably thrown out at least five wines by then until truly determining their best choice).  But the answer wasn't an answer, but an experience of drinking something which they couldn't remember, not even the type of wine, but remembered what they ate with it, and to a degree where they were.  And even in the latter, they were wrong (Al said that he knew the place she was talking about, and it's outside of Rome).

But that brings me to an interesting concept, and that is most people that have consumed wine really know nothing about wine.  If you throw out terms like maceration, Malolactic fermentation, Charmat method, sur lees, etc., they really don't know anything.  They can tell you that they had a wine that Wine Spectator or Robert Parker raved about, but couldn't tell you their own opinions about the wine, instead just going on like lemmings, following everything someone else said.  Some of my paisans like and/or love me because I have had some Italian wines that are outside of the typical Chianti, Brunello, and Barolo.  Some of my Irish peeps love me because I don't parrot that Guiness is all that; it aint.  And even Chef George Perrier likes me because we probably share the same attribute of scoffing anyone, and standing ground on our opinions, without giving someone credit that someone else attributed to them.

Wine is more than the standard varietals that [most] people in America know (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz, Riesling, Muscat).  Do you even know which grape goes in Chianti, Bordeaux or Burgundy?  Trying five wines from Chile, Argentina and Australia doesn't give you the right to say that you really loves wines from those places, especially when you got the mass produced crap that no one even purchases there.

And just because someone has the title of sommelier, it means nothing.  They have completed a number of courses, but unlike being a mechanic or a doctor, there is nothing in their title that states that they learn and no more after receiving it.

Wine is a large world, larger than most people even realize.  Somewhere in some foreign land, there is someone making the most opulent wine that you could ever have, but he only makes it for family and friend.  And in that same land, there is someone with a great marketing budget and an even greater spin doctor who convinces you to buy his schlock and you treat it like its ambrosia.  For me, and Al too, we tend to meet that little old guy and get some of his special stuff.

As Public Enemy once rapped, "don't believe the hype."  Don't confuse wine knowledge with florid speech and praise.  If you do, I have a bridge to sell you.  No, I am serious on the bridge thing.

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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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