I like to step back and look at my wine racks sometimes - partly to take inventory, and partly to see what I’ve been leaning toward lately.
On one side, I have almost exclusively traditional and big wines - Burgundies, Bordeaux, Rhone, Loire, Alsace, Provence, Piemonte, Tuscany, Mendoza, and Napa, made with grapes we hear about all the time. The bottles are dusty and content to sit there for as long as needed.
The other side is a bit more exciting - wines from lesser known grapes from Sud-Ouest (of course), Languedoc, Puglia, Sicily, Bierzo, Rias Baixas, Douro, Niederosterreich, Hungary, Switzerland, Uruguay, Canada - these are the bottles that turn over quickly, they get consumed due to my excitement about the offbeat grapes and regions, and those spots are quickly filled in the wine racks once again, with more offbeat selections. I’m constantly looking for things I’ve never tried, and if I’ve never heard of it, all the better. (And when I get to put them in brown bags and make for interesting surprises - well, that’s just my favorite thing to do right now.)
But even more exciting to me, better than picking offbeat wines to try, is being surprised by something I wouldn’t ordinarily choose for myself - even if it’s something I usually avoid, and going into it without any idea what it is (such as being on the receiving end of a brown bag) - I tend to enjoy it more.
Everyone has a few regions or grapes that they’re a bit prejudiced against. For me, it’s Gamay, and sometimes Cabernet Franc, depending on the style. I’m also less than fond of some of the wines from southern France (such as some from Languedoc) that show too much licorice and black spice and excessive pepper. But I’ve had a few surprises recently - a few Gamay based wines that I’ve really enjoyed, a Cabernet Franc or two that showed extremely well and I connected with, and some others.
And what’s even more interesting is what happens in my mind when I open (blind or not) a bottle that I expect to enjoy, and find that I don’t connect with it at all, or that it seems completely overrated to me. Sometimes it’s disappointing, but it’s always a revelation, and what’s important is learning from the experience.
When I started falling in love with offbeat wines from lesser known regions, I thought my taste was strange, perhaps. But I was realizing that my palate could be satisfied for a fraction of the cost of the wines other people were drinking, and after introducing some of these wines to others, I find that my taste isn’t so strange - it’s just that I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to some of these lesser known wines, and so I was able to determine whether I liked them or not. And that’s what my wine racks are based on - my own taste and wines that I’d like to share with others, in the hopes that they enjoy them as well, even if very few people know what they are, or where they’re from. So maybe I’m a bit of a wine rebel - so what? What would be the point in simply going with the flow? Boring, I say.