Thursday, September 21, 2006

Drink what you like

Now that I’m writing about wine, I’m also doing a lot more reading about wine. One thing that strikes me is how wine is often treated in such an objective manner. The writer, or a panel of reviewers, lists the “best wine of the tasting” or “best value under ten dollars.”

Of course, I do the same thing. It’s impossible to avoid imposing your own preferences on your readers, but it conceals an important truth: there is no objective "good" or "bad" when it comes to wine.

Okay, I take that back—there are some wines that are so poorly made that they border on undrinkable, but they rarely make to the shelves of the stores where you shop. A man with three teeth and two acres of colombard sells them out of a foul-smelling barn in West Virginia.

Mostly, whether a wine is good or bad depends on the drinker. At this point you’re thinking, why am I reading this and who gives a shit?

Wait! Don’t stop reading!

The point is that you should keep on reading wine reviews (and long-winded bloggers), but you should read them differently.

For instance, I read Robert Parker’s reviews (I confess) and frequently buy wines that he rates highly. But I don’t buy them because of the numbers, I buy them because of the descriptions. I’ve been reading his stuff for long enough now that I can tell by his verbiage whether I’m likely to enjoy something he recommends. If it sounds good, I'll give it a try.

I also have followed his reviews enough to know that I don’t like as many of his picks as I did five years ago. Nor am I a big fan of Bordeaux, and most Burgundies worth a damn are too expensive for me. So I focus on his reviews of Rhone wines, Spanish wines and some off-the-beaten-track wines.

If you understand what you like, it’s easy to tell whether a wine some reviewer is gushing about is something you’ll actually like. And if a wine writer trashes something you like—it’s time to read someone else’s opinion.

Everyone’s tastes are different. So don’t be ashamed if you like Almaden Mountain Chablis on the rocks. Hold your glass high and say, “Here’s to Bobby Parker. He can kiss my ass!”

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