This is the third in my series of New Year’s suggestions for spicing up your wine explorations in 2012:
Explore a new wine region. Do you love Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon? Try something different – a cabernet from the Santa Cruz Mountains, or Washington state’s Columbia Valley. Or explore Napa’s sub-regions and learn to recognize the stony minerality of the Stag’s Leap District and the gritty earthiness of “Rutherford dust.” More a pinot noir fan? Try comparing pinots from the Sonoma Coast with those from the smaller Russian River Valley, or contrast pinots from Santa Barbara County‘s two valleys, the Santa Ynez and Santa Maria. Oregon pinot? Compare those grown on maritime soils with ones from volcanic soils. You may even learn some of the geological history of the Pacific Northwest.
Speaking of geology, it would help to have a degree in that subject to explore the wines of Alsace or the Mosel. Several years ago I visited Domaine Bott-Geyl in Alsace. As Jean-Christophe Bott led our small group through a tasting of more than 20 wines, my mind reeled as he pointed off in one direction or another to show where each wine was grown. I couldn’t keep up with his descriptions of the various vineyards and their soils, but I do recall wishing I’d taken geology classes in school instead of political science. As we thanked him for his generosity and prepared to leave, he said, “Oh, but you haven’t tasted the Rieslings yet!” And we started over.
This harkens back to my earlier advice to pay attention to what you’re drinking. We don’t need to understand a region in such intimate detail in order to be able to appreciate how the winemaker expresses the terroir of his or her vineyards through the wines. But we miss out on a lot of wine’s beauty if we ignore those subtle differences, those complexities that give the wine meaning beyond mere beverage alcohol.
Previous posts in this series: