When I was approached about writing a wine column for Ladue News, my first thought was, When am I going to have the time to do this? Owning a restaurant with my wife, Arlene—and raising our two small children—definitely limit my time. But since I stopped teaching the St. Louis Wine Clinic, I’ve missed sharing my passion with people on a deeper level, and this column would be a good outlet for me to connect with others who want to learn about wine.
Wine can inform us far beyond the experience of its simple pleasures. Wine teaches us about geography, history, culture, food and agriculture; it reaches beyond just the mechanics of tasting wine. People often ask, How did you learn so much about wine? Most people assume the learning process involves constantly tasting wines. Tasting certainly is a part of it; however, to really understand wine, like most things, you have to read about it. Once you know more about wine regions, grape varietals and climate, you gain a deeper understanding of the qualities of that wine.
Why does a Chardonnay from Burgundy taste different than a Chardonnay from Northern California; or why can a Pinot Noir from Oregon taste ‘dark and brooding?’ I hope to share some of the things that a sommelier or true wine enthusiast looks for in a wine and why a grape varietal from a certain region tastes that way.
Wine can be a very intimidating subject for a lot of people, but one has to remember it’s a beverage to be enjoyed. Too many people are swayed by others who may know a little more about wine than they do. Keep in mind, everyone has a palate. We all eat and drink different foods and beverages. We all have different tastes.
Experience and knowledge of wine is at varying levels, but it can grow and develop as a person gets more exposed to wine. The first step is to start with a wine that you enjoy, then slowly try new ones from there. Many people sneer at the well-publicized varietal of the ’80s—White Zinfandel—but it was the starting point for many people who got more involved in wine.
Each person’s experience with tasting and smelling different foods, spices and flora is unique. One of the hardest things to do is describe a wine. How many people have had a gooseberry, starfruit or durian? I suspect not many. It’s hard to describe aromas and flavor profiles in wine if you have not been exposed to them. Expose yourself to as many flavors as possible. Don’t worry about finding the words to describe a wine’s characteristics; this takes time. Focus on enjoying some of the more than 1,000 different grape varietals and exploring what regions around the world appeal to you. The wine life is vast and growing. But, there is definitely something for everyone.
Take a look in our own backyard. Missouri is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the country, touting the first federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA) of Augusta, and it continues to improve in quality and production of some award-winning wines. Explore, taste and experience them.You’ll be surprised by all the hidden gems.
Over the next few months, I invite you experience the wine life with me. Explore, read, see, think, smell and, of course, taste.