Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What's your favorite wine?

When I tell people I write about wine, this is usually their first question. "What's your favorite wine?"

I have been asked this question approximately 65,000 times and counting. Sometimes the person just wants to make conversation. But very often, the person asking it really hopes to learn something about wine from an expert they just happened to sit next to on an airplane or stand behind in a checkout line.

And I still have no good answer.

There's the smartass: "Whatever is in front of me." That doesn't tell the wine novice anything.

The serious: "I like a lot of different wines. I drink something different every night." It's accurate. It's also boring and unhelpful.

The idealist: "I like wines that are products of terroir/passion/individuality." Also true. Also a bit boring, and helpful only if we have 5 minutes to talk rather than 30 seconds.

The off-the-cuff: "I'm drinking a lot of Oregon Chardonnay/German Riesling/Santa Barbara Syrah/whatever lately." Sometimes I think this is the best answer because it says something. And if I am actually drinking a lot of one type of wine lately, it's accurate. Problem is, it's rarely true.

The last-night: "Last night I had a delicious Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc/Languedoc Grenache/Washington Cabernet Sauvignon." This is answering the question I wish they'd asked, rather than what they actually asked. But I do use this one a lot.

So, readers and friends, most of you are wine lovers too. You must get asked this question. How do you answer it?

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14 comments:

jim silver said...

The question is easy for me...I just say "Red Burgundy."

However, I stupidly answered this way in a job interview one time many years ago, and the interviewer said "I don't think you and I are going to get along at all..." and ended the interview! Of course they sold nothing but ball-busting Aussie Shiraz...*hint* and bacon...

W. Blake Gray said...

Might be just as well that you didn't get that job.

I envy your certainty. When the zombie apocalypse hits, you know what to drink.

Patrick Frank said...

Hi Blake I think this means that you're a professional. Lots of Art Historians (and I am one) have trouble naming their "favorite artist". So to me this is oddly reassuring, that you have trouble answering this question, because it may show that you don't have personal favorites skewing your tastings.

rapopoda said...

I give a few examples of wines that have excited me and then attempt a bit of contextualization to help in understanding why it's the wrong question

It's not like the analogous question in music, where there one answer: JS Bach ;-)

DAPZ said...

I usually say that my palate is always changing that I like classic wines from classic regions but if i had to go to a desert island and could choose only wine to take with me it would be a dry German Riesling. Some people seem to be quite stunned thinking all Rieslings were sweet...

Larry Brooks said...

When a winemaker like myself is assked this question, and it comes up a lot, the most obvious answer to me at least is, my own wines. This isn't entirely satisfying as it sounds a bit arrogant or egotistical, but when you've spent decades refining your technique so that you know exactly how to produce the wine you love best, it is the most accurate answer. I also answer with my standard favorites such as any good Pinot Noir, Champagne, and German Reislings, but when pressed for which brands from a given area especially Pinot I'll usually reply that I like drinking wines that my friends have made.

JG said...

I can answer that question easily: 2003 Château Margaux. The reason why is that it was my first time having a grand cru bordeaux, it was offered as a gift from the sommelier for being late on a pour for a course in a tasting menu, and it was one of the only times I got to treat my grandmother to dinner (and the only time at a Michelin starred restaurant).

I've had a number of "better" wines but they can't hold a candle to my favorite wine.

Now, if the question was "what was the best wine you've tried" that would be much harder for me to answer. Then, at least for me, it's more about style and winemaking.

Kent Benson said...

I like to have a little fun and shake up the asker by responding, "Oh, I never drink the same wine twice." I go on to explain that for me wine is not about finding a favorite; it's about experiencing its variety. There is a world of good wine out there that I couldn't possibly drink in a lifetime, so why waste time on wines I’ve already experienced? My response isn’t one hundred percent accurate, but it’s close. Outside of my function as a wine educator, I always drink something new, whenever possible. I also hope my response will cause people to think about wine in a different way, which will lead them to be more adventurous.

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...

Hmmm . . . is that a "trick" question?

I'd respond: "Whatever NEXT bottle or glass of wine my munificent host is pouring me."

(Momma didn't raise no fool . . .)

Michael said...

The pat party answer is to say: That's like asking an author what their favorite word is... then I ask them what they like.

Mauricio said...

I always say "I drink wines from all over the world" and the one bottle I go back to every year is Don Melchor from Concha y Toro". Vintage: 2001...

Tolerant Taster said...

I always say it depends...on what I am eating, the weather (summer/winter). Then I ask them what they typically like and respond with my favorite of their response.

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...

Blake,

A postscript to my answer above.

Quoting the Slate article titled "The Burgundy Brawl; Wines that can start a fight":

"The biggest problem with red Burgundies is that they serve up a lot more whiffs than hits. ... red Burgundies are maddeningly capricious -- generous one day, surly and unyielding the next. Pulling the cork is usually a costly crapshoot (the top wines from Burgundy's two most acclaimed estates, Romanee Conti and Leroy, fetch well north of $500 per bottle [circa 2003]).

"As always in matters of table and vine, A. J. LIEBLING SUMMED IT UP BEST: 'BURGUNDY IS A LOVELY THING WHEN YOU CAN GET ANYBODY TO BUY IT FOR YOU.' "

My sentiments precisely!

[Link: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/wines_world/2003/04/the_burgundy_brawl.single.html]

~~ Bob

Jason Solanki said...

I usually struggle with this question too. But I like Kent's answer best! I love the variety of wine. It's also true that I never taste the same twice!