Wine may seem a little intimidating at times. So many choices, so many varietals, so many wineries! How does one remember all of that?! I for one do not remember everything I taste – if I did, my name would be Robert Parker. I don’t know all the different varietals and their countries of origin… but that doesn’t stop me from drinking and enjoying wine.
So for those who feel a little lost in this whirlpool of oenological knowledge, I did a little bit of research and summarized everything into what I call the four corners of wine. It’s a simple square in which all four corners carry just as much weight. They all benefitted me and hope they will benefit you as well.
1 – TRAVEL
Travel is a destination. Travel is a journey. It is about the people and the places you meet along the way. I have travelled my entire life until my wife and I decided to start a family. That’s when we settled and nested in Southern California. In 1996, I left one of most renowned wine countries in the world – France – only to relocate in one of the most exciting and upcoming wine countries in the world – The United States (California). I wish I could take credit for turning “bon voyage” into “safe travels”, but I think it was just fate.
Wherever the destination, I always enjoy the local culture, local food and drinks. The terroir is something that should be respected… simply because it’s everywhere we go, and it’s been around a lot longer than we have – thanks to all the men and women that obey the laws of nature.
Terroir encompasses all the regional factors that define taste, including sun, soil, the slant of a hillside, proximity to a body of water, climate, weather and altitude. Take wine for instance… Terroir happens before a winemaker even touches the grapes. Any winemaker will tell you: “great wine is made in the vineyard, not in the cellar.”
Malbec, for example – Originally from the region of Cahors (AVA), Southwest France, this varietal is one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine. The grape was exported and introduced to Argentina in the mid 19th century, and then again in the 20th century. Same grape, two very different wines. A Malbec from France tends to have more structure, firmer tannins, and an inky dark, brooding quality. In Argentina , Malbec tends to be plummy and fruit-forward, with a velvety soft texture.
I find happiness in an honest meal. Whether it’s a simple pasta or an exquisite risotto, a perfectly cooked steak or an intricately prepared curry, all great dishes are a seamless blend of ingredients and indulgence, of style and substance. More importantly, it isn’t so much about the food as much as the people with whom it is enjoyed. A meal always has the benefit of reuniting people. Eating alone or with the people you love makes a huge difference on how the food is appreciated.
Also, there’s a reason why business meetings often happen in a restaurant. Two or more parties will more likely come to an agreement when they are content and satisfied. Food does that! Food satisfies people. Unless of course it is consumed in excess, in which case it will have the opposite effect. Alka Seltzer anyone?
Obviously – This entire article is about wine. One corner should be about drinking it! A lot of us drink wine, but how and why. Many poets have speculated about the fundamental values and virtues of wine, about its power and principles, its joy and attraction. I mean, if they wrote about this, who am I to disagree?
There are hundreds of popular quotes from actors, singers, artists, writers, philosophers, scientists and political figures. The act of drinking wine with friends is the highest form of socialization. It sort of brings everyone closer together and takes away all the differences, conflicts and variance of opinions. Wine is close to being about 8000 years old. It shouldn’t be taken for granted. It grants a spiritual form of power, drawn from mother nature itself. Drink it, enjoy it, respect it.
The more you learn, the more you know – the more you know, the more you share. Wine can sometimes seem complicated and intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. Wine should bring joy, not stress and you don’t have to be an expert to learn to love wine. In return, you may share that jubilation and the many stories that took you where you are now. Everyone has a wine story – Whether it’s an online order of wine, the dog that drank spilled wine without anyone noticing, meeting the winemaker during a wine dinner, the $400 bottle of wine that was opened by accident, pretending to be a world renowned winemaker while visiting the undergrounds of a French château, your friend that tripped and fell while holding 4 glasses of wine and managed to keep it all inside the glasses! THIS is what wine is all about.
It’s all the wine you drank, all the trips you took, all the wine tasting you’ve been through, and the many friends you’ve met along the way… all of this is simply a foundation to how much you know about wine, and how you enjoy being a part of it.
Wine is a huge industry. Whether it’s a hobby, a summer job, a vocation or a family business, knowing everything about it is nearly impossible. In fact, a huge part of enjoying wine is about the constant learning. Wine is a journey. Respect it, enjoy it, one glass at a time ; )