It’s funny, when I’m out to dinner or in a wine bar, and I see a friend or acquaintance, I’m often asked what I’m drinking. Then a strange thing happens – they order the same thing. I can only guess that they have read my wine reviews and have agreed with my ratings enough that they believe they have the same palate. However, if I query them I usually get, “I just figure it will be good” as if they have no preference of their own. While I’m flattered, you can do better!
My palate, at the moment, is craving 5:01 pm and a nice not-too-sweet chilled Riesling on my sunny front porch. Another night, and I’m eating spaghetti in a meat sauce at a local Italian restaurant, I might order a Chianti Classico off the menu. My husband’s favorite steak place in town – where the wine list isn’t stellar – and I’ll nab a great 10 year-old Napa Valley Cabernet from our cellar, and stemware, before heading out the door.
Are you following my drift? It’s the weather, the food, and my husband’s company that helps me make a decision. However, prior to all of that, you, and I, have to select a wine:
If I’m at a large wine store, faced with hundreds of bottles and I want to try something new, I’m not opposed to picking up a highly rated wine. To me anything that has obtained 90 points or above is worth a look. The wine critics that I have been lucky with – for my palate – are Robert Parker (example: RP 90) or the blind tasting panels from Wine Spectator magazine (WS 90). In the past I also like Steve Heimoff but he left Wine Enthusiast magazine (WE) and I haven’t gotten to know the new reviewer well enough. My advice: Let your palate help you find your critic.
Getting to know the owner of a wine bar, and letting them get to know your palate, is fabulous. They can make suggestions you can try then and there. If you find that your “guru” has gotten to know your palate pretty well, ask about their wine clubs, you may strike gold.
Much like my earlier example, of drinking something because someone else is, doesn’t mean I’m going to like it. But if it’s someone I’ve drunk with before, and have chosen wine with before, I might.
Over the years I’ve been a member of many wineries. Some lasted a year, others longer. I strongly suggest that you support your favorite wineries by becoming a part of their bread and butter business by joining their clubs. Not to mention, many winery clubs come with added benefits such as discounts and harvest parties.
The average shelf life of a bottle of wine is…20 minutes. Do you know why? Because that’s the length of time it takes a shopper to get home from the grocery store. I challenge you to think about this, though I myself have done it while in a pinch, that bottle of wine, that has been stood upright for who-knows-how-long, is nothing special. It was purchased in bulk, at a discount, may have sat in a hot shipping truck and can be found everywhere. Do you really want to drink common wine? Wine drinking is a gift. Spend some time choosing a good one.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com