|This is the way I like to learn about wine|
I went because I think I like Barolo and Barbaresco, and I wanted to taste some good Barolos and Barbarescos. I really am that simple.
As we know, wine is not that simple. It turns out that Barolos are not only different by which part of the Barolo region they come from: they're different depending on which part of the vineyard they come from. This wine tastes like this because it comes from a south-facing part of the vineyard on clay, whereas that one is from an elevated part of the same vineyard on sandy soil.
I despair. How can I keep track? I left that seminar feeling less confident in my ability to order a Barolo I like than before I got educated.
I won't say "how can anyone keep track" because someone can specialize in Barolo the way people specialize in Burgundy. It's possible to produce hyper-detailed topographical maps of the region with colors indicating soil types. Barolo sells for enough money now that there's a market, though limited, for that type of specialization.
For me, though, I sighed. Yet another part of the world where I will never know enough to help me order the wine I'll most enjoy.
You don't have to stop at Barolo. Chianti Classico wants us to learn how the wine tastes different from different communes. Monterey County published a beautiful poster a few years ago of the "thermal rainbow" so that we could learn the different average and high temperatures in different spots throughout the county. And of course it all matters.
But the wine world is so big now. After I started this essay I went to a tasting of German Pinot Noirs. The German MW who ran the seminar mocked the idea of a guy in England who dared to lump the great diversity of Pinot Noirs from her homeland into one banner of "German." She called that person "stupid." I have ordered one bottle of German Pinot Noir in my life, and while I liked it, I don't remember if it was from Pfalz or Baden. I am stupid.
It's all so much. My favorite type of wine education is to drink a glass of wine and THEN learn why it is the way it is. The desire to know more is what led me to write about wine in the first place. And yet I felt overwhelmed by wine education.
I should have been overwhelmed, but instead I just ordered a bunch of great wines, tasted them and now I feel like I understand Brunello in a way I never did before.
In fact, I wrote a whole column about the experience, for Palate Press, where I usually try to sound smart. I wouldn't like to admit on that site for intelligent wine lovers that I did not know the site-specific details of even one of the wines I liked: not the soils, the angle of planting, the trellising system, nothing. I just liked the wines.
Now, in retrospect, I'm glad I didn't have some professional wine educator telling me more about the Brunellos. And I'm really glad no MW called me stupid (though the comments section is there and I'll bet it'll happen soon.)
Has this happened to you? Has there been a moment where you felt overwhelmed by wine education?