Welcome to a new feature on OddBallGrape.com: Wine Class. These are posts dedicated to all those who want to learn more about wine, or even refresh what they already know. Feel free to comment and ask questions.
People ask us all the time what’s the big deal with wine? Why are people so obsessed with this nose or that flavor or this grape or who makes the best and 100-point scores and all that stuff?
So the first thing we want to point out is that you do not have to be “into” wine to enjoy it. If you can’t tell a cabernet sauvignon from a pinot noir, you can still appreciate that this glass of red tastes good.
But there are some very good reasons to learn about wine, not the least being that when that glass of red really tastes good, it’s nice to know why so that you can find other glasses of red that also taste good. Or to be specific, that taste good to you, because we are all different and what tastes great to us might taste rather blah to you and vice versa.
Also, it’s fun to learn about wine.
“It’s one of the great pleasures of life,” said Lisa Rigisich, one of the co-founders of the Pinot Days festivals around the country. “It’s one of the only drinks that takes you somewhere.”
Rigisich went on to point out that learning about wine is one the ultimate mash-ups of intellectual and sensory stimulation. You use at least three of your senses when appreciating wine: Sight for the color, smell for the nose, and of course, taste. We suppose you could add touch, in that you do get some mouth feel. And there are audio components – the sound of the cork leaving the bottle, the sound of the liquid pouring and the clinking of glasses.
Knowing about wine makes it a lot easier to deal with the rows of bottles on shelves when you go into the supermarket to pick up something on the fly for a last minute invitation. Or when you’re at a restaurant and presented with a book the size of War and Peace listing a bazillion wines you’ve never heard of and the sommelier (wine waiter) hasn’t either. These things happen and add to the stress many of us feel about something that really should be pretty low stress.
It’s just fermented grapes, for cripes sakes! Granted fermented grapes that can be pretty freaking transcendent, but you shouldn’t feel like you need a degree in enology just to choose a decent bottle for dinner.
But then you might want to learn more, because wine is a lovely thing to have on a dinner table, because it does slow you down after another insane day at work, because it just plain tastes good. And, again, it can be fun.
There are also a couple reasons why you might not want to learn more about wine, chief among them because you’ve got something to prove. Anne had a colleague once who made a big deal about how much he knew about wine, and framed everything in terms of what “my friend Larry” said. If you’re only interested in how much a bottle cost, or how many points some wine critic gave it, then there’s really not much to learn and if you really need to, you can look that label up on some snooty site and real off what the writer there thought.
Wine is not a label. If you drink labels, you’ll discover that they all taste like the glue on the back of a postage stamp back in the day when postage stamps had to licked. We know. We’ve had to lick a few labels to get them on our bottles.