Why is wine so confusing?

Posted on March 26, 2013 by Andrew Harwood


 Why is wine so confusing? Does selection intimidate you? If yes, you are not alone!
Most people have been to a wine store or a restaurant and been absolutely overwhelmed and intimidated by the sheer variety and number of selections offered. Herein lies the problem: too many choices.

I, personally, can't get enough of it. But wine is my life, my profession, my passion. I remember being in college as my friends were slugging back Milwaukee's Best, while I was at home comparing and contrasting Almaden's Mountain Burgundy to Carlo Rossi's Hearty Chianti. Granted, a humble beginning, but I was on a budget.

Ten years later, I now love to read about up-and-coming regions and to compare and contrast, for example, the styles of different producers within one tiny region of Spain, or from one specific commune in Bordeaux. It is not practical, however, for most people to read about every producer, vintage, region, and production method out there. So what is the solution?
Discover Your Palate

Many people know when they like a wine. The difficult part is understanding why. What do you like about it, and how do you communicate your feelings? Is it light or full bodied? Is it tannic or not? What are tannins anyway? Is it fruity or sweet? Do fruity and sweet mean the same thing? Furthermore, if you try and like a Chianti, does that mean you will like all Chiantis?

All these questions can be answered by tasting, and then tasting more. Yet tasting is not enough as you must pay attention to what you are tasting. Even better, in my opinion, is to learn with comparative tastings.

Consider the Chardonnay grape. It is grown in Napa Valley as well as in a region in France called Chablis. Tasted side-by-side, you may think they have little in common, yet they are both made with the Chardonnay grape.

In general (but not always), Chardonnay grown in Napa tends to be fuller bodied and more fruity, while the Chablis wine tends to taste drier, with higher acid and flavors that favor mineral and stone as opposed to fruits. When you taste them side-by-side, you easily begin to get the idea of full body versus light body, and fruity versus mineral.

From such tastings, you may form a preference, or you may like them both, simply wanting one or the other depending on the occasion or your mood. Does this mean all Napa Chardonnay is full bodied and fruity while all Chablis is bone dry and tastes of liquid rocks? Not necessarily. Often yes, but not always. So what is the next step?

Find a Good Store

Knowing regions like Chablis and Napa can certainly serve as a guide. Yet there are exceptions. There are Chardonnays from Napa than can be dry, firm and steely, while there are Chablis that are fruity and full bodied.

What is even more important is knowing the style of wine you like. With this, you can enter a store, or a restaurant, and speak with the staff, letting them know the type of wine you want.

If you request something dry and crisp, then you may frequently be given a Chablis, or a Sancerre from the Loire Valley in France, or a Gruner Veltliner from Austria.

Pay attention to the recommended wines and you will likely see trends emerging with regard to regions and the styles they produce. But beware, you just may find a Napa Valley Chardonnay or two that blow you away with its mineral, liquid stone, and crisp, clean acidity.

Be open to possibilities and then, make note of them.

Read this on Littleviews Travel!

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