Wine 101


1. A grape variety isn’t a style. Chardonnay isn’t buttery. Ripe, malolactified, and toasty-barrelized Chardonnay is. The same treatment applied to thousands of local varieties around the world make the same style. These tend to lag in price because they can not literally satisfy demand for “Chardonnay.” Your basic wine monkey knows this and will steer a “Chardonnay” drinker to very satisfying wines made from Semillon, for example, or Grillo, or Marsanne, or even Macabeo!

2. Reducing wine to varietal names harms wine quality. Chardonnay is a brand. Pinot Noir is a brand. Even Malbec is a brand. Asking for one of these is tantamount to asking a wine farmer with perfectly good indigenous grapes to tear them out and replant with one of these brand name varieties. The odds are it will not be better adapted to the environment. It will make more dilute, less ripe and shorter lived wine. But it will translate nicely to a wine list.

3. Categorizing by variety used to be a way to ensure quality. Field blends of god-knows-what used to be the norm in the New World. Nameless varieties were used like all farm stocks to maximize yield often at the expense of “quality.” Imposing the restriction of a random imperial grape – Cabernet Sauvignon, for example – was one way to invite better standards. But this is just one randomly selected variable, and the market has adjusted to it, leaving poor varietal drinkers at the mercy of a separate economy for suckers. Your varietal wine is either unaffordable or seriously manipulated – or both!

4. Kids these days get it. So does anyone with the sense of an outsider. This is based on personal experience. Come to Detroit. I’ll show you.


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