I was asked yesterday by my good friend @thecraiger what the biggest thing I had learned about wine that I could pass along to the everyday wine consumer was. I actually had to think long and hard about this before answering.
I first thing I said was that price isn’t everything. A $40 bottle of wine is not always going to be better than a $30 bottle of very similar wine. Price is often an indicator of quality but not always. Too many factors go into the price of a wine, including many of the standard costs that go into any saleable item. Labour, taxes, raw materials etc etc etc. Plus much of the wine we see here in Ontario carries a lot of marketing dollars behind it, which of course increases the price. However the more I thought about this answer the more I realized this is not the appropriate thing to pass along to the average consumer because they are not necessarily going to be able to act upon it. Even if you accept that price is not always going to drive quality it takes a lot of wine knowledge from there to be able to find the hidden gems that offer value for your dollar.
So my honest answer to @thecraiger was to not believe everything you hear. The standard principals that the wine industry wants you to believe are not always true and certainly can’t be used as general rules. Here is a quick list of a few examples to go by.
- Blends are not a bad thing. Blended wines are often because a winemaker uses the best grapes at his/her disposal to produce the best product. In fact some of the finest wines in the world from Bordeaux are always blends. So try them.
- Ontario wines do not suck. In fact Ontario is becoming quite well recognized for producing some exceptional cool climate Chardonnay’s, Pinot Noirs, and Sparkling Wines from those two varieties. So try local.
- There is no single best region for any grape variety as a rule. Yes Napa Valley produces some of the finest Cab Sauv’s but they are not always going to be good and they are not always going to be better than a Cab from another region, say Chile. Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in Australia is often quite good, but it is not always going to be better than a Syrah or Shiraz from elsewhere in the world. Yes these are quite good guidelines but do not always assume these are 100% the case. So try variety.
- Rose wine is not poor quality wine and is not always sweet. Furthermore, and in most cases, it is not a blend of red and white wine which produces a pink wine. Quite often some of the finest regions and wine makers in the world set out to produce great Rose wine… and succeed. So try one from Spain or even here in Ontario and you may be pleasantly surprised. So try Rose.
I could go on and on but I am not trying to debunk wine myths here by any means. My point is that the average wine consumer can often be swayed by so called “rules” out there. Wine is very subjective so my recommendation to everyone out there is to open your mind and try wines from all over. Try white wines if you call yourself a “red wine drinker.” Try Rose’s. Try a Gamay or a Chenin Blanc. Try wines from France and Italy, but also from Greece and Uruguay. You may not like everything you have but you will start to appreciate wine and that is what the everyday consumer should set out to do.
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