Thursday, March 1, 2012

Drinking Wine With An Open Mind

Gerald, the newest addition to our staff, is on a passionate wine journey (have you noticed?), in fact so much so that for this post I asked him to share some of his recent wine experiences with us.

So, I’ve only been working here at Windsor Wines for about six months now. While major world events have taken place in the course of six months, what doesn’t usually happen in that short a period of time is for our tastes and opinions to change dramatically. In my case this is exactly what has happened. Had you asked me six months ago what my favorite wine was I would have responded, “Well, I really like the big, full flavored, California and South Australian reds. And maybe a crisp, dry white in the summer but I like dry red wine.” Now, there’s almost no style of wine that I don’t like or at least see a value in.


Dry reds... First of all, horrible descriptor. Of the hundreds of reds we carry, only two of them are actually sweet. So the term “dry” is almost useless. I was ignorant of this small but useful fact six months ago. Along those same lines I always said I didn’t care for “fruity” wines. Wrong...sort of. Wine is made from fruit after all! It would be kind of silly to say I like my wine to taste otherwise. But there is a caveat, fruit is fine as long as there is balance. Too much fruit with nothing to back it up leaves me wanting...just as a red with big tannic structure or loads of acid needs the fruit to balance it out. What I learned is that there is way too much variety in red wine to use one word to describe what I like and, phrases like, “I don’t like Pinot Noir” are way too broad to be true in every case.


Along those lines, I fell in love with wine because of California cabs so, in my mind, wines I liked should always be big and full flavored. Well, wrong...again. It turns out, as I branched out to try other things, I found that lighter styles (Burgundy, Piedmont) have so much complexity that I couldn’t help but love everything about them. Sure, I’m not hit in the face with concentrated flavors of each wine, but instead I get elegance, and secondary and tertiary notes that I wasn’t even aware wine could provide. I still love a big, full flavored red but, I’m no longer closed to the idea of trying a wine simply because of the color, or depth of color or, for that matter, a little sweetness.


Sweet wines....Like most of the people who come through the door, I would have been adamant that I did not like sweet wines. In this, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Riesling has quickly become one of my favorite varietals. Sure, the sugar hits and freaks me out a bit at first, but then the lift and acidity shoot in and leave such an amazing sensation that I can’t help but ask for more!


To be fair, I have been drinking and enjoying wine for some eight years now and it is only with my recent time at Windsor Wines that I have really started to open up to new types and flavors in wine. Part of this is because I am surrounded by wine, but it is mostly because I wanted to try different things so that I could convey what they were like to our customers. So really, I have all of you to thank for broadening my palate and enjoyment of all varietals of wine!


So how much have my tastes changed? Well, I have a couple of wine fridges to store bottles. The first had about 48 bottles with a 11:1 ratio of red to white. My current fridge holds 28 bottles and has a 3:1 ratio white to red. But more than just a new found love for whites, what has changed most is that I try everything because every wine is different, perhaps even unique and it would be a shame to miss out on something delicious just because the last Pinot Noir or Chardonnay I had wasn’t pleasant. So please, join me in an open-minded excursion into wine, you may find things that you don't like, but you will probably find a lot more that you do.


Gerald