“Some say the glass is half full and blush,
Some say it’s half empty and sink,
I feel you are in the midst of,
reaching out for another awesome drink!”
“Underneath, ten pairs of flexible fibreglass rods are swinging back and forth, their amplitude, frequency and spacing specified by the driver. The vibration separates the grapes from the plant, and a conveyor belt brings them to the top of the vehicle. There, they pass over a series of rollers whose spacing lets the berries through while trapping stray stems and leaves. The vines look undisturbed save for their lack of fruit, their naked stems eerily exposed. The machine, made by Pellenc, a French firm, will harvest 20 tonnes of grapes tonight: enough to make 18,000 bottles of wine, and a harvest that would otherwise require 40 workers.”
First, have faith in your own taste. Look, the minute you bite into a burger, you know if you like it or not. Doesn’t matter if Guy Fieri made it or Daniel Boulud. Wine’s the same.
Start with the classic regions— they’ve figured out their identities over hundreds and hundreds of years. So learn about Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Napa, and the Mosel in Germany. That gives you parameters so you can say, “OK, this is the standard. If I taste the rest of the world, I have these as a yardstick.”
Bordeaux from the Médoc gives you the epitome of Old World Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a leaner, more elegant, more restrained style, versus, say, big, ripe Napa Valley Cabernets. You learn the European take on one of the world’s most popular wine grape varieties—which is a pretty big chunk of the history of wine in the world, too.
The wines of Volnay, in the Côte de Beaune. They show people the elegant side of Pinot, but they also have the underlying structure and power people don’t really realize Pinot Noir can have.
Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo, the Cabernet family (starting with Cabernet Sauvignon) and Chardonnay. Then throw in Riesling, because of its pure deliciousness, and one wacky grape: could be Trousseau, Grüner Veltliner, Grenache—there are lots of options.
The fact that it should be a tad green! A little bit of green pepper. People assume vegetal flavors and wine don’t really go together; they think, “Oh, fruit, that’s it.” But fruit alone doesn’t taste like Cabernet to me. The wine should have a little greenness, too, to balance the oak and the fruit. That’s the secret of great Cabernet.
Grüner Veltliner, only because it perplexes me! It can be powerful and rich, austere and stony, you name it. It’s one of those varieties that I don’t always identify when I’m tasting wines blind.
I always say, if you don’t know anything about wine, pick up a glass, swirl it, say, “Yes,” sort of thoughtfully, swirl it again and say, “Hmm—no,” then swirl it again and say, “Well, maybe.” Then put the glass down and walk away.