I think it was inevitable. I blog about the things that delight me. It follows that wine would soon find a permanent spot in that mix. So this is the new turn this blog is going to take: in addition to the various delights of life I report, each week will also feature a wine that knocked my socks off. These won’t be the high-enders, necessarily. In fact, considering my budget, they almost certainly won’t be. They will, instead, be the wines that make an impression, that create an experience, that surprise me with their winning charm, and that help to make life just a little more special. These are not reviews and rankings; these are the wine stories—reportage on the intersection of wine and life, interesting tidbits, sensory observations. I invite you to come, to drink, and to be delighted with me.
Most of us ask and try to answer the wrong questions about wine. For a long time I felt guilty about my inability to distinguish by smell or taste graphite from menthol, or blackberry from black cherry. Tasting wine with a former manager once, he claimed to be picking up “smoked Meyer lemon” after one swirl and sniff. You’ve got to be kidding me.
We want to know, or we think we want to know, what does this wine taste like? But I would say that this isn’t the information we’re seeking at all. Allow me to describe using an analogy I am sure we can all relate to. A friend says, “I know this person who would be perfect for you. I should set you up.” You nod and she continues giving you the information she thinks you want to hear: “He’s about 6 feet tall, dark hair, wears these sexy, thick black glasses, dark brown eyes…whatever.” Sounds good, but you could pull twenty-five people matching that exact description and they would essentially bear no other resemblance to one another. This information, while true, is not all that helpful.
What you really want to know is how am I going to like this man? How am I going to connect with him? And, I would say, these are the same questions we want to explore when it comes to wine. However, we’ve been so trained to ask about exact varietals and flavor profiles that we aren’t really questioning and identifying the character of the wine, nor are we identifying what we’re really looking for based on our own personality and preferences.
Dating professionals and the like recommend that singles looking for a match get very specific about who they are and what they’re looking for. I don’t know if this is to activate some law of attraction process or if it is because once you are very clear about what you are looking for, you will be quite certain when you find it.
Case in point, there is a very popular wine at the wine store at which I work. I am floored by how many bottles of this juice sail out the door daily, but I had yet to try it. So when it was time to bring a bottle to a party, I thought it would be a prime opportunity to give this one a shot—it’s evidently a crowd-pleaser judging by the numbers.
So what did it taste like? I could tell you it tasted like deep black fruits or this or that spice, but what you need to know is: What was this wine like? What was the personality? To which I would respond: fat, lazy, and stupid. This is a wine that would have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. It is lethargic and unmotivated.
I recently tasted through a grouping of chardonnays at the lower end of the price spectrum (I hesitate to use the word cheap). What I encountered in the five was: 1) fat and happy with a big, though slightly off-color personality; 2) tropical and high strung; 3) solid, but not terribly exciting; 4) weak personality riding the coattails of a well-known name (all hat and no cattle, if you will); 5) refined, elegant, and charming. And guess what they all tasted like…Chardonnay. Toast, butter, pineapple, mango, oak, and all of the other traditional California chardonnay descriptors.
The flavors and the aromas are important, but I’m more interested in how they perform and how I find the experience of drinking them. As I now recommend these wines to customers, I want to convey the experience of the wine rather than the exact flavor profile. Which is more helpful and informative to you?
Delighted Life Wine is thus committed to the story of the wine, the personality, the background and the history. Again, do you want to know that guy’s driver’s license statistics or might it be more revealing to hear that he was the son of Italian immigrants, owns his own business, and can have a room full of people rolling with his charming sense of humor? People are more than what they look like and wines are more than what they taste like. Come, let’s get to know some wines.