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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Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
White’s OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wine’ll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce