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Friday, April 6, 2012

Drink What You Like, Get Your Own Style

If you’ve been reading my blog, you probably know I’m from Long Island.  You’ve probably also read some of my posts and reviews of local wines, and know some of my favorites.  You can also view my favorite local wines on the list called “Jac’s Picks” toward the right side of the blog page.
You’ve probably also noticed by now my strong preference for European wines - some of my favorite regions being Piemonte, Bordeaux, and South West France for reds, and Loire, Burgundy, and Alsace for whites.
Yes, I’ll drink wines from Long Island, and from other regions in the United States as well.  I’ve got a few Long Island favorites, plus some from Napa, Sonoma, and Willamette.
I’ve done some asking around lately, just out of curiosity, as to whether wine drinkers prefer Old World style or New World style, and overwhelmingly signs point to a preference for Old World style - lower alcohol, terroir expressiveness, etc.
So my question became: Why am I still getting “the look” from lots of wine acquaintances because I prefer European wines over American wines?  Where’s my love for California wines?  And my favorite - Where’s the local love?  My answer: Sorry guys, I can’t call it local love.  I do have some favorites from Long Island, those being several of the wines from Bedell, Macari, Shinn, Raphael, and a few from Pindar and Waters Crest and Wolffer.  Yes, I’ve got some more Long Island wines to try, and I keep an open mind.  But it’s just not local love for me, as the wines from the region where I live rarely have much impact on my palate and my senses.

Invariably, I’ve got lots of locals telling me what I should like - from Long Island and from the other New York region, Finger Lakes.  I’ve already got some favorites, like it or not.  I’ll continue to taste, and I’ll still look to learn and enjoy.  But my palate has its own style, and that style happens to be Old World.  I find it’s easier to pair to my cooking as well as what I select from restaurant menus, it’s lower in alcohol, and I find them more fascinating because it’s easier to detect their expression of terroir, so the wines can tell us a story about their place of origin.  Kevin Zraly, in our WIndows on the World wine class, recently read us a quote from Sideways - it’s about how wine is alive and tells us about itself, about what the vintage year was like, the weather, and the people who grew and harvested and produced the wine.  Yes, of course there are plenty of New World wines that express themselves to the drinker (including some of my favorites from Long Island, Finger Lakes, and the west coast), but it’s easier to distinguish wines from different European regions, and for me that makes it more fun and better for educating my palate.
I’m going to be honest - I’m tired of having my taste questioned.  I’m tired of being told I should be drinking more American or local wines.  I’ll drink what I want.  And so should you.  And we should be proud and happy that our palates develop a preference and a style - that’s an indication that we’re learning and we can tell one wine from another.  But it’s awfully hard to learn when you’re being told what you should be drinking.  I suggest giving everything a chance at least once, probably several times, keep an open mind, and always remember there’s an infinite amount to learn.  And don’t worry - I won’t question your taste, ever.


  1. Love this post, Jac. As you know, taste is extremely important to me. (No surprise there.) You know I have discovered that I also enjoy Loire region whites and rose, and I don't try to hide my love of New Zealand wines either. :) I suppose my intention for trying to support local wineries as much as possible (as there are local wines that I enjoy a great deal)is twofold.

    One, I'm a local small business person. For that reason, I feel an obligation to keep my dollars supporting fellow local small businesses.

    Two is the issue of sustainability, and concern for my own carbon footprint. If what I drink isn't flown, shipped, or trucked in from far away, that's a net good thing. It's why I often try to buy local produce, too.

    With all that said, will I be rigid and strict about these two issues, to the exclusion of all other non-local wines? No. But will I try and keep it local the majority of the time for these two reasons? Yes. But that's what feels right for me. I'm not going to impose that on others.

    I am wondering whether part of what you are experiencing is local business people having good intentions but perhaps getting overly-zealous with you as a fellow local business person and member of the local wine community, not recognizing each person's right to prefer what they prefer (without being judged for their preferences). Just a thought. That's about as successful a strategy as it would be for me, as a vegetarian, to harangue all non-vegetarians I meet about why they should be a vegetarian too, and hold it against them if they chose to do otherwise. I'd turn more people off with that approach than anything else, despite good intentions.

    The non-orthodox (on any issue) don't want to be preached at by the orthodox regarding things they disagree with. That approach doesn't usually produce converts, anyway.

    I know it's true that you never, ever question others' taste, and it would be nice if the same courtesy was also extended to you in your wine world!

    Keep on speaking out honestly and with integrity, as you always do. You provide a valuable service.

  2. Completely agree with you about not wanting to impose your beliefs on others just because it’s your belief, that’s the problem I encounter most often. As for being conscious of your carbon footprint, definitely check out Shinn, they’re local and very environmentally conscious, I was so impressed when I visited their winery, and because of the way they handle their wine production, it also allows the wines to taste natural.

    I’ve been learning more about certified organic and biodynamic wines from Europe and gaining appreciation for those producers, and learning more about what makes each region a good candidate for certified organic vineyards, whether it’s the vicinity to ocean breezes or any other factor, and I’ve noticed more and more shops and restaurants here are importing certified organic and biodynamic wines. While I’m not sure I’ve been able to taste the difference just yet, I’m all in favor of it. I’ve also tried some organic wines from South America - so far, so good!

    What was interesting to me is how even when I was choosing local for the sake of being local, I got accused of being biased for whatever reason, and being told to drink something other than even my local favorites - to me, that’s beyond unacceptable. It makes it so much less fun and harder to learn, and when wine stops being fun for me, that’s a problem, so I’ve been choosing my own path these days.

    I’ve got some plans to visit a few more local LI wineries this summer so we’ll see if I connect with any of them, I’m certainly hoping so!

    As for you, I was so thrilled at how much you loved the Loire rose I brought and how much you’ve been enjoying a lot of the selections...I’m thinking it’s time I brought you some Italian selections.

  3. I'll definitely check out Shinn.

    I'm all about anything that's certified organic and biodynamic...people don't realize exactly what an impending shortage of potable water we have on this planet, and having pesticides, etc., seep into aquifers (and also our surrounding waters) is definitely not a good thing. I really don't know how much of a difference one would be able to taste,as I'm sure Monsanto probably makes sure that there's no detectable flavor or residue to what they manufacture. But knowing that your dollars are supporting something that's supportive of preserving the earth's environment and waters is something to genuinely feel good about.

    What the heck is with being harassed about what LOCAL wines you're choosing? Didn't know we had the Wine Police here on Long Island! Wonder how it would feel if the shoe were on the other foot.... Golden Rule stuff, you know? Anyone who knows you knows that you're very open-minded to the wines that you taste, and always review them with honesty and integrity -- either warts and all, glowingly, or something in-between, you call them as you see/taste them. It's admirable that, despite being given a hard time about whatever it is that you like and dislike, you've remained true to your experience and palate and have continued to review honestly. Anyone who disagrees with you should at least respect you for that. You're willing to speak your truth and take chances.

    I'm excited to see what comes of your summer winery visits!

    Totally loved the Loire rose' was a TOTAL home run that David loved it too! :) You've never chosen anything for me that I haven't at least liked, if not loved. I've had no exposure to Italian wines, and would be totally up for that!