The Wine Project – Beginnings

The following is the approximate extent of my wine knowledge. There are two types of wine, red and white. OK, also sparkling. Wait, is sparkling its own distinct “type” of wine? What about dessert wines? So, as I was saying, there are four types of wine: red; white; sparkling; and, dessert. Also, rosé, let’s not forget that lovely little summer tipple. So, five types then?

Perhaps it would be best to start over. The following is the approximate extent of my wine knowledge. There are many types, including white and red, and I like both. I don’t like my white wine too sweet, and I don’t like my red wine too spicy. A nice port can be quite enjoyable in the evenings, and summer definitely calls for whites. Yep, that’s about it. That’s the extent of my wine knowledge.

I have long enjoyed wine, but I’ve never really taken the time to learn its subtleties. When I have a wine with dinner, or out with friends, I might enjoy it or not, but I can never speak to “why” I developed that opinion. It’s just a sense I get. As a result, when I find a wine that I love, I am ill equipped to repeat the experience.

Today, I’m out to change that– it’s day one of The Libationer’s Wine Project. Over the coming year I’m going to take time out every week to learn something new about wine. My goal is to develop enough knowledge on the topic to broaden my taste horizons and experience wine in a more appreciative and nuanced fashion. To begin the project, I have purchased two widely-recommended beginner’s wine books — Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible, and Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World — and I’m going to read through each and extract what knowledge I can. Naturally, I intend for a good deal of tasting to go with my reading. (For the sake of learning, of course.)

Lesson one, from Ms. MacNeil’s The Wine Bible:

In judging wine, a taster ought to take into account the following main characteristics.

Integration: How well do the components of the wine blend together, such that no single taste (acid, tannin, alcohol, etc) overwhelms the rest? Beyond simple balance, do the elements fuse together in a harmonious fashion?

— Expressiveness: Are the wine’s aromas and flavors well-defined, and clearly projected? Is the character focused?

— Connectedness: To what extent does the wine reveal it’s linkage with the people and culture that produced it? Does the wine give off a certain bond with the plot of land where it was produced? Could it have come from only a single place?

— Complexity: Does the wine return to your consciousness in an unexpected fashion? Do you find something new in the wine with each sip? Something that causes you to return to it over and over?

— Varietal Character: How well does the wine express the defining characteristics of its grape variety? Does it express those characteristics in a clear and focused way?

I must admit. I’m already a bit lost. How does one sip a wine and think “yes, indeed, this wine seems well connected to the land where it was produced?” I suppose the answer to that question will come in time. What a great amount there is to be learned. But, it’s only day one.

For all  you readers out there, I look forward to your comments. Join me on this journey and perhaps we can learn something together.

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