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Monday, September 24, 2012

The Importance of Knowing What You Love and Why You Love It

Wine trends fascinate me.  I’m often curious as to why something becomes popular.  Is it because the price is right?  Or because of the style of the wine?  Or because of an article in Wine Spectator telling the people to drink it and like it?

I’m one to buck the trends.  I like to drink things that are unpopular.  Some of my favorite wine regions include Sud-Ouest, Campania, and some wines from Balkan regions, including Croatia and Montenegro.  I’m quite confident these wines won’t be popular for a while - not like Prosecco, Sancerre, and Mendoza Malbec, at least.

The thing I find interesting, however, is how many people place Burgundy at the top of their list, and what I wonder is, how many of those people “love” Burgundy for the right reasons?

Recently, I was speaking to someone about a Pinot Noir.  I told her it was a Burgundy.  And she said she loves Burgundy, and wanted to know where it’s from, so I just said again that it’s a Burgundy, because I didn’t want to insult her by saying something obvious.  She asked me again where it was from, and if it might be French.  Yes, I responded.

I guess I’m just curious how someone can love Burgundy if the person doesn’t know anything about Burgundy.  It’s completely ok to love Pinot Noir and not know much about Burgundy, but to claim you love Burgundy and not know it’s a region in France, that just doesn’t make sense to me.

Lovely Burgundies

And then we have people who claim to love something like Burgundy, and take cheap shots at places like Bordeaux or Rhone.  A true wine lover with any respect for wine realizes that everyone has different taste.  You like Burgundy?  That’s cool.  I like Burgundy, too.  I also like Rhone.  And I love Bordeaux.  The thing I’d like to ask a lot of the people who are all about Burgundy is what exactly makes them “love” Burgundy so much.

I could easily tell anyone what I like about those three regions.  What do I like about Burgundy?  The wines are clean, and the grapes are permitted to show their identities - they’re terroir-driven and earthy, and the identities of the wines matter a great deal to me.  What do I like about Rhone?  Rhone makes some funky, attention-grabbing wines with a lot of character, and many of them are still relatively affordable.  What about Bordeaux?  Bordeaux is what I really love.  I love the structure, texture, aromas, and flavors of those wines.  The really spectacular ones are the wines that leave me speechless.  They’re majestic and unabashedly so.

I understand why any true wine lover would fall in love with Burgundy, for the reasons I named, and so many more.  Reasons to love any particular wine region can’t fit into a blog post, as there are far too many to name.  But while there are plenty of exceptions, including lots of enthusiasts and professionals that I know, I still find that a few too many people are saying that it’s all about Burgundy without justifying their so-called love for the region.  When I hear that many people saying the same thing and not backing it up with reasons or knowledge of what they claim to love, that tells me they’re just parroting what they’ve heard from someone else.

These past few months, I’ve heard so many people going on about Burgundy while barely scratching the surface of what Burgundy is all about - elegant, expressive, lovely, honest wines.

So - what’s your favorite region?  And more importantly - WHY is it your favorite?

I think what’s important to remember is that regardless of what we hear other people saying, it’s up to each individual wine drinker to determine what he/she likes in a wine, and embrace it.  Wine appreciation isn’t about being told what to like, or liking something just because it’s become popular.  It’s about finding what you connect with, and continuing to learn and enjoy.

After thinking a while about those who just repeat things they hear, and not knowing a thing about it, I thought of one of my favorite scenes in Seinfeld, which illustrates my point.

Jerry: So, we're going to make the post office pay for my new stereo, now?
Kramer: It's a write-off for them.
Jerry: How is it a write-off?
Kramer: They just write it off.
Jerry: Write it off what?
Kramer: Jerry, all these big companies, they write off everything.
Jerry: You don't even know what a write-off is.
Kramer: Do you?
Jerry: No, I don't.
Kramer: But they do - and they’re the ones writing it off.

“You don’t even know what a write-off is."

My point is, instead of just repeating what someone else says, it’s more practical to just find the wine that’s best for each individual wine drinker.  If you like Burgundy, know why.  If you like Bordeaux or Rhone, know why.  If you like something else, know why.  I know I’d be kind of embarrassed if I claimed something was my all-time favorite of anything, not just wine, and couldn’t give any reasons as to why it’s my favorite, due to lack of knowledge.  What’s the remedy?  Keep on tasting, enjoying, and learning.  And let’s do ourselves a favor - read fewer opinions and instead focus more on facts, as well as what we feel when we taste, and how well we connect with each wine.  When it comes to enjoying wine, ultimately the opinion that counts the most is your own.  But please make sure you can back it up!  And remember, it’s completely acceptable to prefer something less popular.  But if you’re one of those people who really loves Burgundy for all the right reasons - cheers to you, you have wonderful taste.

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