rpm wrote:Ya think? It is frustrating for new wine drinkers to spend a pretty penny on wines because of their reputations, and find that they don't like them, or (as is often the case with wines made in more traditional styles) understand them. I'm sympathetic (if intolerant of 'trophy hunters' with more money than sense), but very often the last thing a new wine drinker wants to hear is the very sound advice to start with more modest wines and develop a palate over time, hopefully by tasting with people who are more knowledgeable and capable of teaching the neophyte how to identify aromas, flavors, acid, tannin, and other characteristics so that he or she can begin to organize their impressions of wine and discover their own palates in a systematic way. Being assured, at the same time you explain that they should drink what they like, that as they drink more, their palates will almost certainly change over time.
A former girlfriend of mine from the early 1970s was an "Annie Green Springs" and "Boone's Farm" drinker when we met. I changed her life with a 1964 BV de Latour Cabernet Sauvignon (an unusual year 1964, the entire crop was released as de Latour. a lovely wine at around 6 when it was released). She applied herself over the years, with me and subsequently, and has done semi-professional tasting at the international level and had an outstanding palate firmly grounded in pre-international style Cabernet, Bordeaux and Burgundy. It takes effort, and a good teacher helps, but the basic princples are summed up in my tag line.
I think inexperienced wine drinkers are often well served to spend time with wines that we used to describe as "sound commercial wine" - that is to say well-made wines without pretense to greatness, but rigged to give the drinker the characteristic aromas and flavor of the grape with reasonable balance, a little tannin where appropriate, and to be good values for money.
One of the hardest things to admit, especially for those of us who like small, interesting wineries -- which includes most of the wineries we see here on woot -- , is that some of the industrial wineries make some pretty good wines which sell at pretty good price points. Even the dreaded Gallo which has its hands on a number of old, famous wine labels such as Martini, Frei Brothers (which was known in the trade, along with Seghesio, as a producer of some of the very best bulk wine in California in the old days) and others, makes wines under those labels that are good, true to type, and instructive for not a lot of money, even if those wines are sad shadows of their former greatness.
As one of those new wine drinkers, I like what you have to say here. Alongside the course I'm taking at UNH and my own exploration, I've set a few rules for myself that I thought I might share.
1. Do not spend more than $15 a bottle. This is in part due to my college budget. It also takes some of the risk out of exploration that you mentioned above. The Helios was a great temptation, especially while reading the threads, but it broke this rule. There are plenty of good cheap wines, and probably just as many bad expensive ones. I do not need to try them all (here's the sign of a rookie).
2. Get as much experience anchored around a central element as possible. A large factor into why I went for this offering was with what people had to say about the two vintages being radically different. I want to know why. I went for the JanKris and the Etude for the same reasons - variety within a brand. What sets it all apart, and what is common across them? I'd love to see such as a small sampler of common varietal and region, variety in winemakers here sometime - but I can see that being more difficult to coordinate.
3. Cheat. I research a lot of tasting notes. I want to know if people think a given wine is of higher quality, and I want to know what flavors and aromas people are finding. It helps me pick them out when I find them, and put a name to them. If had jumped into a Finger Lakes wine, I would not have come up with the term "foxy" to describe what was going on. Also now, I can find qualities like that in wines since without that guidance.
4. If you don't like a wine, be sure you can say why. Not liking a wine can be broken down into either not liking the varietal or not liking your particular offering. Being at a position where you don't have a "mental taste" of everything on deck to recall, this is rather important.
5. Take notes. Mine tend to include CellarTracker average ratings and/or those from a publication, prices (NH liquor stores keep their inventory online - it's a great resource), notes from the wineries, and general themes I see in consumer reviews. Following all that, I have my own bullet where I just throw down what I can smell and taste, if I decanted, what I had with or what I would want to have with and a simple "would buy again" or "would not buy again."