Understanding Wine: The Quick & Easy

Don’t drink wine? Drink bad wine? Breaking out of your old Merlot/Pinot Grigio habit might seem scary, but my bet is you’re drinking something better fit for cooking, something blended 5 ways before getting pumped with color additives and preservatives. Worst part? It no longer tastes like the grape from the soil it came from. You’re missing out on a lot of important things that make wine taste great, such as:

AROMA
Taste
Character
Balance
Texture
WEIGHT

This is not fancy talk, these words help you figure out what wines you like. It can be hard to parse through all the jabber and find something good that doesn’t break your wallet. So how can you get started?

The Quick & Easy 

1) Get Curious. Try a lot of wineask a lot of questions, take risks (no more “I don’t drink white” or “I only drink Syrah…or is it Shiraz?”).

2) Get Focused. Wine comes from grapes. Choose a grape and try as many different bottles as you can. You’ll be able to understand the way a grape tastes a whole lot better if it’s not competing with 3 others in a blend. Try single varietal bottles that are easy to find,  grapes like Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Tempranillo.

3) Get Local. Wine comes from grapes cultivated by people. Understanding wine, the grapes, its styles, and regions can be broken down if you familiarize yourself with the people behind the wines and their philosophies. Discover who made it, who brought it to your area, and who sells it. Put a face to the name. The effort put into selecting grapes, locations, production techniques, fighting importation restrictions, opening a wine store, etc., are all part of the labor of love that is your good glass of wine, and no two are quite the same.

All the rest is details. Best vintages, producers, methods, blends, etc., all of that is subject to opinion. We all taste differently, and all like different things. It’s ok to not know everything. Just know what you like and be open to trying new things.

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Alright, using the above as a guideline, on to our first taste of delicious. This is a bottle of Cabernet Franc (100%) from the Loire Valley in France. It’s produced on a small, bio-dynamic vineyard called Château La Tour Grise by the couple Françoise and Philippe Gourdon. As the name “Surclassée” suggests, this wine is “underclass”, aka no frills or signage needed. Needed…or wanted? In the wine world, everything is endlessly marked with appellations and certifications (partially due to regulations, and partially due to ego), and these guys ditched it. This wine is a statement in every way, starting with its rejection to be classified as anything other than wine “253”. This stuff is unfiltered, loaded with character, and slightly effervescent. And the best part is, it varies with every vintage, so 253 is something to explore again and again. Go ahead, I dare you.

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