Humanizing Wine- in Defence of Wine Lists

Jonathan Nossietr in his recent book ” Liquid Memory- Why Wine Matters” reminded me the reason that we love wine and why wine evokes for many of us so many wonderful emotions, feelings and memories.

He reminded me that to often we as wine drinkers are blinded by science.

Take the following quote and see what I mean.

 A very grippy style, with lots of sweet tapenede, tobacco, hot stone & bruised chedtnut notes weaving through the core of a dark currant & fig fruit. There is a nice twinge of lavender on the structured finish. Best between 2010 through 2028″

Wine when described like this has become an ” intellectual justification” of what someone thinks that they see and smell in a given wine, no wonder we get a little confused when we stare at the often voluminous wine lists that are placed in front of us.

Wine is essentially an emotional & sensual experience and everybody will experience this in varying degrees, but we should remember that when we do drink we actually do think about what we are doing so it does in fact become a passionate intellectual experience.

I know as I write description and wine makers notes I often sit back and go ” where did they get that from” as I am sure I cannot see it or taste , ‘ oh dear” what i have done!

Wine is all about personal taste  and you should have the courage and liberty to express what you feel, it should not be a game of one upmanship or intimidation.

Next time you are looking at wine list ask yourself do I really understand much about the wines I am looking out, how do they compare to what I drink, do they represent fair value & most importantly how do I know that I will like it?

For many this makes the decision making process all to hard and as such we retreat to what we know or like which is not all that exciting especially as you are being with a golden opportunity to think outside the box.

I believe that wine lists, wine reviews and wine descriptions should be all written in very simple English, German, Spanish et al as it is only a small percentage of the world who both have the time and inclination to be true subject matter experts.

At times even I struggle when I am presented with the wine version of the White Pages, now as much as I love indulging my passion and thirst for knowledge one can get simply carried away with the contents and miss not only selecting my wine for the meal but also my meal.

Turning the pages as I did through the wonderful Rockpool Bar & Grills wine list ( which was awarded for the 3rd year in a row the Best Wine List Award ) their wonders were revealed to me .-legendary Bordeaux’s, stunning Cote de Rhone’s, exciting Barolo’s, new Californian’s & Oregon Pinot’s- the list goes on, talk about Alice through the Looking Glass that was me.

I consider myself fairly competent when it comes to wine but I would suggest for many it is all to hard, thank god for great wine advisors like Rockpool’s Sophie Otton & Jonah’s at Whale Beach Christian Baepeller as they are like your personal GPS of wines.

But sadly not every restaurant has such fantastic resources & resident knowledge like this and this is why their wine list and the way that is constructed becomes more important.

Choosing wine should be based on two qualities trust what your palate tells you and do not be blinded by the vintage, the grape, the region, the country & especially the price as so many lesser wines are often deeply hidden in many a restaurants wine list.

If you are not sure there are two great strategies I would offer you:

  • See if you can try it by the glass ( most restaurateur worth their salt should ahve a greater by the glass range for you to experience than they may have now)
  • See if they have a half bottle ( this allows you to try multiple wines and see what you really like, many of our wine partners & makers produce their wines in 375 ml and 500 ml bottles)

 As Nossiter notes ” wine has been a symbol of prestige since the earliest Greek civilizations. Its inevitable. therefore, thast money is the critical element in making wine an object of anxiety as much as for pleasure….the relationship between wine and money is irrational & incomprehensible”.

I leave you with oen piece of advice, when confronted with an opportunity to try something new , do it as you have nothing to loose except maybe a few dollars”

Zum Wohl



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