Wine Whis­perer

The Wine World: En­joy­ment vs. Ap­pre­ci­a­tion

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY J ERR Y GREEN­FIELD Jerry Green­field is known as The Wine Whis­perer. He serves as the cre­ative direc­tor for a Florida- based ad­ver­tis­ing agency and is for­mer wine direc­tor of the South­west Florida Wine & Food Fes­ti­val. Read more at thewine- whis­perer. c

In many ways, learn­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate wine ( in­stead of merely en­joy­ing it) is a lot like lis­ten­ing to a sym­phony. At a con­cert, you hear the to­tal ef­fect of the mu­sic— all the parts at once. You may like the per­for­mance, be moved by it, even, but there’s more to be gained from the ex­pe­ri­ence. Same with wine.

In­stead of sit­ting back and let­ting Mozart wash won­der­fully over us, let’s try to pick out the com­po­nent parts that con­trib­ute to the over­all ef­fect. Over here, the vi­o­lins are do­ing one thing. Up in the back, the wood­winds con­trib­ute har­monies, or coun­ter­point. Same with wine.

Sip a glass of some­thing re­ally good, like a teeth- pur­pling caber­net from Napa Val­ley, and you taste many things at once. Learn­ing to pick them out, dis­tin­guish them, rel­ish them— that’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

For ex­am­ple, we gen­er­ally di­vide the aro­mas and fla­vors of wine into five ar­eas: fruit, flo­ral, spice, veg­e­tal and oak and oil. That big Napa cab, for ex­am­ple, might be­stow fla­vors of black plum and cas­sis ( fruit), a tinge of vi­o­let or laven­der ( flo­ral), some cin­na­mon or pep­per, per­haps ( spice), maybe a lit­tle mush­room ( veg­e­tal) and over­tones of vanilla, tof­fee or caramel ( which come from the oak bar­rels). Same with whites, just dif­fer­ent fruits and flow­ers.

That’s why, when you’re in the com­pany of sip­pers who are re­ally into the wine life, you hear them slurp their wine, pick­ing out those sen­sa­tions and dis­cussing them. They’re not be­ing wine snobs, so please sti­fle the urge to smack them. They’re just be­ing ap­pre­cia­tive. ( A fa­mous James Thurber car­toon de­picts a man serv­ing wine to his guests and say­ing, “It’s a naïve do­mes­tic Bur­gundy with­out any breed­ing, but I think you’ll be amused by its pre­sump­tion.” Him you can smack.)

You can get a bit more help in se­lect­ing and ap­pre­ci­at­ing un­fa­mil­iar wines by re­mem­ber­ing what some peo­ple call the “Three Gs.” If you know the the wine is made from, the or re­gion where it’s grown and the or who makes it, you’ll have a pretty good idea of guess­ing what’s in the bot­tle.

Most peo­ple be­come frus­trated se­lect­ing a wine be­cause most la­bels tell you ab­so­lutely noth­ing. I can make a wine and call it In­signia or The Pris­oner or Fred, even, and not have to list the types of grapes in­side the bot­tle. So a big step to­ward wine ap­pre­ci­a­tion is to sam­ple widely ( that means drink a lot of wine), be­come familiar with the fla­vors of the grape va­ri­etals and dis­cover the ma­jor wine­grow­ing re­gions of the world. ( That’s a travel tip. They don’t grow wine grapes in ugly places, and wine tourism is a bunch of fun.)

For thou­sands of years, we’ve been crush­ing grapes, wait­ing for the juice to go bad and get­ting happy off the re­sult. The wine world is a very big place, but keep­ing a few sim­ple prin­ci­ples in mind can go a long way to­ward turn­ing en­joy­ment into true ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

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