There’s a cartoon doing the rounds right now which purports to identify various types of wine drinkers. The inexperienced wine drinker says, “Let’s just get drunk.” The beginning wine drinker says, “I like red wine.” The snobbish wine drinker says, “I only drink Pinot Noir.” The adventuresome wine drinker says, “I like to try wines I haven’t tasted before.” And the experienced wine drinker says, “Let’s just get drunk.”
This immediately made me wonder what category I would place myself in. I’m certainly beyond the very general “I like red wine” phase. I’m a little more particular than that and besides – I love many white wines also. And I’m certainly not a snobbish wine drinker, for although I treasure all the great and eminent wines of the world that I have tasted, give me some good bread and cheese and olives, some good company perhaps and a bottle of good, honest vin ordinaire and I’m in heaven.
No, I would tend to place myself in the adventuresome category (with a few brief and occasional forays into the experienced phase). I like to try wines that I haven’t tasted before. This struck me just the other day as I was sipping on a bottle of Sárga Muskotály from Hungary. There are thousands of different grapes that are used to make wine. Why do most of us insist on sticking to only about 10 of them?
Personally, I like the fact that grapes can be indigenous to a certain region and have a long history there that becomes part of the region’s individual cuisine and culture. One of my bugbears about traveling through our domestic wine regions – as great as the wine and the company can be – is that more or less the same grapes are grown everywhere. This is not the fault of the winemakers who by and large love to experiment and play with wine. It is rather a concession to the marketplace, to a wine-buying populace that sticks adamantly to what they are familiar with.
In comparison try traveling around France, say, or Italy, or Spain. Every couple of hundred miles you will come across a region that produces its own individual wines. Its cuisine is different. Its architecture is different. Its culture is different. I find this exhilarating.
So I suppose all that I’m saying here is don’t be afraid. Take a chance. Do you like crisp, refreshing whites? Try a Grüner Veltliner from Austria (or from New Zealand) or perhaps an Italian Lugana made from the Turbiana grape (aka Trebbiano di Lugana or Verdicchio Bianco). Or perhaps an Apremont from Savoie in the French Alps made from Jacquère or Roussanne grapes. Then there’s Gavi, the greatest white wine from Italy that many people don’t know about, made from the Cortese grape. Perhaps you like a classic red. There is always Taurasi, made from the Aglianico grape. This wine doesn’t quite get the press that Italy’s other premier wines do – Barolo, Amarone or Brunello di Montalcino – but it is certainly worthy of standing beside them. The list goes on and on.
So what kind of wine drinker are you? My hope is that you are one who realizes that, yes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are among the greatest wine grapes the world has to offer and produce some of the greatest wines, but who also finds exhilaration and adventure in hunting some of the great lesser-knowns also.
Bill Stobbs, Wine & Spirits Supervisor
Follow me on Twitter @abcwinebills