Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Come, thou monarch of the vine

I am not a wine connoisseur. I do not have a fine palate. I do not have a deep knowledge of grapes and methods and regions and vintages. I haven't drunk enough wines and made enough notes to have a broad go-to list. I do know what terroir and malolactic mean, even if I can't exactly taste them, though. I know a little about pairing wine and food. And, as the saying goes, I know what I like.

The Wine Cellar at Tracey Haus

My palate (and knowledge) HAS broadened over the years, though. Like many wine drinkers who don't come from wine-drinking families, I started out with rosé (because that's what my college girlfriends drank), and "graduated" to white zin when that was new and shiny and all the rage. Over time I tasted a bit more and learned a bit more, and slowly, slowly, began to prefer other things.

A few years ago I had the good sense and fortune to take the long-running wine tasting class at Sunset Grill in Hillsboro Village here in Nashville. They've been doing it for years, and it's a hoot. At the time they offered a weekly series starting with Wine 101 and followed by classes devoted to varietals or groups of varietals. It was in those classes that I learned the basic lingo, learned about pairing with food, and best of all, I tasted. It was an amazing experience. I learned first that I simply don't have the palate to discern peach and slate and grass and mango and fuzzy caterpillar like some oenophiles do. That's OK, because what also happened was that my palate expanded from where it had been, and in a matter of a few weeks -- no joke -- I lost my taste for truly sweet wines and learned to love those with more bite.

I also confirmed that I really, truly don't care for Chardonnay.

I know, too, that I'm never going to prefer reds to whites -- the heavy, chewy, tannic wines just aren't for me. I drink reds more than I used to, however. I still have ZERO patience for wine snobs who think that reds are the only wines worth drinking, and the rest is swill and for Philistines only. It's OK to have a preference -- I do, obviously -- but please spare me the guff about your "superior" palate and opinion. Some of the most knowledgeable wine people I know (or know of) love all decently-made wine, understanding when and where it's appropriate.

Thanks to these people I've actually come full circle and now know that brilliant roses exist, even if they are underappreciated in the US. In the same vein, I've long been a Riesling fan, despite its reputation with US wine farts as being "too sweet." Yeah, there's tons of swill made from Rieslings, and a lot of it is too sweet even for me. Yes, even the driest Riesling is a little sweet, but they can also be tart and/or minerally. That produces a great balance and complexity that works well with many types of food, especially spicy or rich dishes.

Tapas & Riesling I had recently at ChaChah

Luckily, appreciation for Rieslings has been on the rise on this side of the Atlantic, and they're getting a bit more respect. The wave hasn't hit Nashville full-force as I hope it will, but it's nice to see this wine get some props. For example, in today's New York Times Eric Asimov writes of a wine tasting they recently conducted specifically for 2010 German Auslese Rieslings, "Sweetness That Bites Back."

The article is a good quickie primer on German wine nomenclature, as well as having a nice explanation about why 2010 was a banner year for German Rieslings. (In short, they are both sweeter and more acidic than usual.) This article has made me want to swing by the liquor store and scoop up some. Of course, the Times often does tastings of wines far beyond my pocketbook, but the information in the articles can still be useful. I hope to find some worthy 2010s in my usual price range. If not, I may just splurge on their top pick (of the wines tasted), a Dr. Loosen. I remember sampling -- and loving -- a Dr. Loosen wine at the Sunset Grill classes, and at $28 it's a bargain compared to some of the other picks. Also, there are less expensive Dr. Loosens; the last bottle on the right in my wine rack pictured above is a $14 Dr. Loosen labeled simply "Riesling."

So, Rieslings, yay or nay? If you're in the nay camp, are you willing to give them another go?


Anonymous said...

I love wine and pick what I think I am in the mood for...white or red. I prefer dry wine to sweet...I am ok with Chardonnay but prefer a Pinot Grigio/Gris over it. I do like Reisling, especially dry because it has the hint of sweet to it.

I enjoyed your post and look forward to reading more...


TL said...

Thanks Pam! Glad you stopped by.

Anonymous said...

Quote: "I am not a wine connoisseur. I do not have a fine palate."

It's OK - neither does anyone else. They make that shit up.

Me? I pick my wine by the artwork on the label. Also it has to be a cork bottle since I need 30+ of them when I start making my own wine to get completely away from the oenophile cabal. Next stop? All Seasons on 8th avenue....

TL said...

Eh, I don't think it's all made up. After all, some people can list the ingredients in a complex dish just by tasting it. But I do think some wine snobs get carried away.

heavy hedonist said...

I'm a yay-- and have drunk many a glass of Loosen, as well.