When it comes to wine, I’m a novice. My bacchanalian self is merely a child, born just under a decade ago when I first moved to New York. Pre NYC, a good red was an Astica Syrah at The Old Mohawk. Don’t get me wrong, even now, I will absolutely tip back an Astica, it’s a great pour for the value. I also love The Old Mohawk and it’s turtle soup (which is delicious 70 year old tradition.)
The difference, by moving to New York, marrying an Italian and traveling the world, my knowledge and appreciation of wine has changed dramatically. Now wine is a part of my everyday life in a style more akin to Italian society than American. There is not value or judgement placed on the enjoyment of wine, it’s simply one of the pleasures of life. As natural on the dinner table as bread or salt and pepper.
Knowledge and understanding of what a particular bottle holds is respected but not expected. The only real expectation is, if you’re the one sniffing out a freshly poured taste for the table, you should be able to tell if it’s a good or a bad (as in corked) bottle.
I’m at the stage now where I know–with confidence–if a bottle is bad/corked (smells of vinegar, wet cardboard or worse yet wet dog!) I’m also developing a set of expectations built through experience of trying many, many different bottles.
If I order an Astica, I know what to expect. A pleasant, drinkable glass to accompany a dish. If I open a bottle of Oddero Barbera d’Alba 2011 like the one pictured above, I expect a robust earthy red. From a Barbera, I want to smell it wafting from the glass my Husband just poured as he walks across the room to settle onto our patio for a nightcap. I want to take a sip and imagine this Barbera, fell asleep and dreamed of becoming a cognac. What I’m smelling as I plunge my nose deep into the glass and inhale, is the essence of this wines dream.
Sure I could extrapolate into notes of cherry, vanilla, chocolate; but, honestly I’m not that evolved yet. What I know is what to expect, what I like and how excited I am to learn more, travel more, drink wine from the region it’s grown, made and bottled in. I’ve had the extreme pleasure of sipping a Barolo in Barolo. Now, when I open “the king of wines” I know what to expect from that bottle. With luck a classic style, a hearty red, aged, tannic and beautiful, “un vino con le palle” as my Husband would say.
Learning about Pinot Noir in Oregon
While recently in Oregon at Cannon Beach, we stopped at The Wine Shack and sampled a few local Pinot Noirs. My Husband historically has not enjoyed Pinot, noting they are “not enough wine for him.” Not surprising since he’s from Piemonte, one of the finest wine producing regions in the world known for the mature Barolo, rich with tannins. Yet, once we sampled a few and learned about grapes of the Willamette valley, he began to know what to expect from a bottle of Pinot. That night, we opened a locally produced bottle and for the first time, he knew what to expect from a Pinot and could enjoy it for what it was, complex, berry friendly, balanced wine.
We are fortune here in America. As our culture moves beyond Bud and Bud Light, American’s can now more easily enjoy artisanal beer and the fruits of viticulture and viniculture. We are an open minded drinking society. We’re not snobbish like the French believing we produce the best wines (sorry France), we do not miss out due to tradition. Unlike many other European countries, we import from all over the world. As we explore, our palates are open, youthful and ready to try almost anything.
Fun Resources for Wine Novices
New to wine like me? Here are a few articles and movies I’ve recently enjoyed in my journey with wine.
- 7 Basics to Serving Wine and Glassware
- 8 Simple Signs Your Wine is Bad
- Ask a Sommelier: What’s the Best Way to Learn About Wine?
- The Movie Bottle Shock which highlights how beautiful, young and open American Wine Culture is.
- The Movie Sideways a fun, well made exploration of both the healthy appreciation and pompous sides of wine enthusiasts.
- The Movie SOMM which shows how deep wine obsession goes and how even the top palates in the world are really just guessing, informed guessing, guessing well but mind you just guessing.
Time will tell if I’ll ever be a wine snob; but I doubt it. I enjoy wine, all kinds, price points and varietals. It’s not the exclusivity or collect-ability, it’s the exploration and accompanying experience that I’m drinking up region by region across the world.