Hippo Manchester
January 5, 2006

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Wine: Resolve to try new wines

Step one: stop being such a snob

By Tim Protzman  tprotzman@hotmail.com 

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but this year I made some.

Not the usual “thou shall not” self-improvement type of New Year’s resolutions, but the wine kind of resolutions.

My long-term philosophy has been to try to drink a different wine every time. With more than 115,000 separate wine producers worldwide, this should be easy. But it’s not. Only a fraction of those producers make it to the United States, and only a small portion of the ones that do are available in any given locale. It’s all based on regional tastes, importer-distributor relationships and the shop’s clientele. A finicky cabernet franc from the Loire or an obscure charbono from California probably won’t be flying off the shelves of that little liquor store in the college district, where kegs are king. So I’ve put together a few guidelines, or resolutions if you must, to map out my wine journey for 2006.

Stop being a wine snob

First off, I don’t know enough about wine to be a true wine snob, and I’m also too poor. What I do is try different wines, and after 14 years of training my palate I’d say I know more about wine than 93 percent of the population. But that leaves 7 percent or 20,720,000 people in the United States who know more about wine than me. (In France it’s closer to 30 million or about half the population, but I’m definitely more knowledgeable than 99 percent of all French toddlers.) The difference is that only a small percentage of the smarter wine people write about their experiences. This includes the French toddlers, with the exception of Etienne, who’s just published Burgundy by BabyBjorn; A Vineyard View From my Snugli.

How I can practice de-snobbery is to give up all critique of people’s wine choices. No more funny grimacing faces when somebody orders a white zinfandel. I’ll give up saying things like, “Oh, yes that is the perfect wine…for cleaning out my Mr. Coffee!” when the store staff makes a suggestion. And I’ll be less coy. Instead of asking them, “Will I like this?” or saying “I’m looking for an amusing wine,” I’ll be more specific.

“I’m in the mood for a refreshing white, with some citrus and the ability to be good without food.”

This should help them hone in on what I want. And when I don’t agree with their suggestion the only comment should be, “That’s fantastic; let me jot that down for another time.”

And once in a while I should just go with their picks, and stop second-guessing them.

Buy more wine on the Web

Buying wine on the Web is like being a six-year-old waiting for his birthday. The suspense just kills you. There are huge bargains and variety available on the Web, but if you plunk down $85 for a Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Ruchottes, 1er Cru from Domaine Noel Ramonet, you have to wait to sample it. To help me overcome the impatience, I’ll give up the instantaneous gratification of scratch-off lottery tickets and switch to something with a weekly drawing. Wine on the Web provides a tremendous opportunity to try wines from small artisanal vineyards located in out-of-the-way regions.

Try more “best selling” wines

Most of the top-selling wines are moderately priced, easily recognized on the shelf and readily available. It’s nice to recommend Berncastler Bernstube Riesling Kabinett from Dr. Thanisch, ($18.99), but if nobody can get it, it doesn’t make sense. So this year we’ll try the Rosemounts, the Kendall-Jacksons and that whole host of wines with cute animal names like Hissing Pussy and Agitated Otter.

Drink more whites

I drink and write more about red wines than white wines. But everyone’s wine journey starts with white. White is noble and fresh and sometimes deep and layered. It deserves more respect and more exploration. Some unknown whites: pinot gris from Oregon; Albarino from Spain, and Muller-Thurgau from Germany.

Try new regions

Wine from New Jersey? Wine from Peru? Wine from India? Yes, there’s a whole world out there trying to compete. But it’s not only a monetary competition, there’s a spiritual side. There’s a bit of the soil and the soul of the vineyard and country of origin. It’s like that really great Mexican restaurant where, just for a moment, you picture yourself in Oaxaca and are little disappointed when you find yourself in the parking lot of a strip mall. Regions to watch: the Russian republics, Bulgaria, Mexico, Texas, Missouri, Michigan, Romania and Spain. Every bottle isn’t going to be a hit, but it will be interesting.

Break away from the traditional descriptions

Who really cares if the wine tastes like tart melons with a finish similar to licking a battery terminal? Let the drinker decide for themselves. I’ll say what I tasted, but really who cares?

“It tastes like wine,” is what one of the wine rookies told me, and that pretty much shut me up.

Drink more sparkling wine

Not just champagne, but wine from Germany, Italy, California and even New York has some fizz to it. Enjoy it, not just on New Year’s and at weddings, but for a nice dinner or an evening out at a restaurant.

Best Wine tasted during the Holidays — 2004 Edna Valley Paragon pinot noir- $14.99 from California’s Central Coast. I like it ‘cause it’s fussy and Burgundian with cherry and rust..





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