It seems so mature, so sensible, so much like the nectar that puts hair on our faces, and brings the opposite sex to our mercy (or the same sex). It is treated as the perfect complement to the most delicious bites of food and to know one’s wines is to be of a higher caliber. Real people, real classy folks, they know their wine and they know how to drink it.
But who would expect you or me to know everything there is to know about wine by age 18? Even by 22, that is kind of a stretch. At this point in our lives, whiskey seems more exciting and, most nights, we just want to get drunk for cheap. That being said, the folks here at the Basement Fridge want to give you a few tips to help you out in case you decide that something slightly more respectable than jugs of Carlo Rossi are in order.
1. Know the basics
To be honest, I think wine snobbery is dumb. If someone at school tries to parade their alleged knowledge of wines, hit them in the face. However, it is helpful to know the very basics — especially if you plan on pairing a wine with food. Rieslings and a hearty porterhouse steak don’t work as well together as a zinfandel would. That is because of the fundamental properties of the wine.
When I say fundamental, I don’t mean the “hint of cranberry” or other small nuanced tastes like that. The fundamental properties would be things like color, smell, acidity, earthiness, etc. These are really what matter most.
Charts (like the one below) and websites are helpful for this. GourmetSleuth.com made the table inserted below and had a page about the methodology they used to construct their pairings. They have a more comprehensive one (much more comprehensive) which can be found here.
2. Price is for Suckers
Freakonomics did a podcast on February 27th called The Days of Wine and Mouses (iTunes). In it, Stephen Dubner talks about a number of instances in which researchers, including Freakonomics’ own Steve Levitt, found that more expensive wines did not yield greater pleasure for the consumer.
Levitt talks about his days at Harvard when he filled decanters of what was supposed to be high quality wine with the cheapest bottle he could find at the liquor store (I’m assuming it wasn’t Franzia) and no one at the high society dinner he attended with the decanters could tell the difference. Robin Goldstein did more than 6,000 blind tastings and reached the same conclusion. If you want to read the paper look here.
So don’t be fooled by the price. While the types of wine are distinct in their own rights, the difference between a $7 bottle and a $70 bottle are negligible. If anyone tells you otherwise let them know that the data says they stupid.
3. Drink for You
If you are going to uncork a bottle then make sure you are drinking something you like. Even some of the most experienced palates cannot distinguish various flavors or “high quality means of production” in bottles of wine. If you like how a wine tastes then drink it.
I remember being at a wine tasting in Madrid last year and we were taught how to breathe with the wine in our mouths and what we were supposed to look for in the various shades to distinguish quality. Treat wine like you would treat buying a painting that hangs over your bed.
Respect the technique and the effort that went into production but, most important, only purchase the painting if you like how it looks. At the end of the night, when you put your head down, there is little choice but to deal with that painting — or in this case, the potential wine-sickness. Might as well enjoy the ride!
- Drizzy Banks
PS - GQ has a great piece about wine that I loved when it first came out. Here it is!