Here are some of my wine preferences, biases and defining principles. I offer them for perspective on my selections and advice.
- Wine is part of the meal. I don’t prefer to drink it like a cocktail and I prefer wine tastings that include appropriate food. I believe the wine and the food can be enhanced by effectively pairing them, but I try not to worry too much about it.
- I am a believer in Terroir. There can be a difference between two vineyards in close proximity growing the same grapes. I do not like internationally-styled wines.
- In my opinion, wine, and its expression of terroir, is best if the grapes used are indigenous to the appellation.
- Distinct wines often have the least evidence of the existence of the winemaker. In such cases, there is an impression of the vineyard being conveying through the wine.
- All things being equal, nice people make better wine than not nice people. Fortunately, most winemakers are the former. For that matter, so many wine lovers also are fine people – exceedingly generous, in particular.
- Wine is organic - even if the grapes are not farmed that way. It is a living thing that changes (sometimes for the better) and will vary. That’s why we say, “there are no great wines only great bottles.” Unless made in a style I do not prefer, I always give a wine a second chance.
- A truly great wine can give the impression of sparkle. Not as in effervescence but as an extra dimension of energy and verve. For me, it is the tasting equivalent of the visual effect of the last sunlight of the day on a pristine lake.
- We often speak of the depth of a wine, the ability of a wine to reach all the way back on our palate. Distinct wines seem to me also to have width - spreading outwardly and providing differing taste experiences in different parts of our palate.
- Acidity is your friend, especially if you agree with #1. Acid provides lift and edginess that complements a wide variety of foods. No wonder the most food-friendly wines (Riesling, Champagne, Chenin Blanc, many Italian wines, and Pinot Noir) tend to come from cooler climates where the grapes ripen less. Acidity, along with tannins and sugar, also enables a wine to improve with age.
- I prefer wines that are acidic, subtle, lower alcohol and not overly ripe. However, balance is the most important factor in my appreciation of a wine.
- As a consumer, I am unconcerned with vintage quality. If I find a wine or winemaker I enjoy, I try to buy every year. Exceptional winemakers tend to do well even in “off-vintages.” More importantly, you learn so much from comparing year-to-year. Though I might buy more deeply in vintages I prefer.
- Over the course of our life, our taste in wine tends to evolve.
But remember…it’s only wine and it need not be taken too seriously. It need be enjoyed.