Monday, July 6, 2009

Rant: Wine Stereotypes

Stereotypes are wrong. They are inadequate generalizations which fail to take into consideration unique individual differences. It is easy to rely on a stereotype but we should not take that easy route. We don't tolerate stereotyping people but that does not go far enough.

Wine can be stereotyped too. Yes, wine has no feelings and does not care how you characterize it. But when you stereotype wine, it can hurt you because you may miss out on a wonderful wine because of those preconceptions. Wines, even made from the same grape, can be so very different that one cannot rely on stereotypes.

As I have mentioned before, I am generally not a fan of Cabernet Franc when it is the dominant grape in the wine. This is because many Cabernet Franc wines have a vegetal taste which does not appeal to my taste buds. It would thus be easy for me to ignore all Cabernet Francs, to stereotype them as all having that vegetal taste. By doing that though, I would miss out on the significant number of Cabernet Francs which lack that taste, and which I would enjoy. Despite my dislike for many Cabernet Francs, I have kept tasting them, seeking out wines that I might enjoy. And I have found them, including a couple which amazed me. I would never have found those wines if I stuck to a stereotype.

I encountered another wine stereotype several days ago at a Rosé tasting. Some people think that all Rosés are sweet, that all Rosés are like White Zinfandel, but that is far from the case. Most Rosé is actually dry and tastes radically different from White Zinfandel. I love Rosé and it is a perfect summer wine, pairing well with so many different foods. I actually drink it year round. Don't think of it as sweet and give it a try as you might find a delicious wine you'll thoroughly enjoy.

Sherry also has been stereotyped as being sweet, as well as being old-fashioned, a drink for our grandmothers. Yet that too is far from accurate. Sherry comes in a variety of styles and flavors, and much of it is dry, delicious Finos and Manzanillas. They too are good food wines, or nice apertifs. There are some sweet versions of Sherry, like Oloroso or Amontillado, but they have plenty of flavor, and pair well with desserts or alone as an after-dinner drink. I had plenty of delicious Sherry in Spain and it helped me appreciate the drink even more.

Israeli wines suffer from a triple stereotype. First, many people think all Israeli wines are Kosher, which is actually not the case. There are plenty of non-Kosher wines produced in Israel and I have positively reviewed a number of them on my blog. Second, many people think Kosher wines generally don't taste good. They think of Manischewitz as being the typical Israeli Kosher wine, yet Manischewitz is made in the U.S. Third, many also think Kosher wines are generally sweet. Both of those two points are erroneous. There are plenty of dry and delicious Kosher wines around. The Israeli wine industry has numerous boutique wineries that are producing excellent wines, Kosher and not, and which you should check out.

A beverage that is near and dear to my heart is Saké, and it too has a burden of a stereotype. Far too many people think all Saké is served piping hot, which could not be farther from the case. Much of the best Saké is served slightly chilled and I have reviewed many such on my blog. Heating Saké can hide so many of its delicious, subtle flavors. There is a myriad of styles and flavor profiles of Saké and there is probably at least one that would please all wine lovers. Break past the stereotype and give a chilled Saké a try.

Even a popular grape like Chardonnay can suffer from stereotypes. After so many oaky California Chardonnays seemed to hit the market, a significant number of people began to think that all Chardonnays were oaky and to shy away from drinking them. Yet that is not true. First, there are Chardonnays which see no oak at all, and they can be quite delicious. The fruit shines forth, not concealed beneath an oaky veneer. Second, there are Chardonnays which only have a kiss of oak, enough to enhance but not conceal the flavor of the wine.

What are some of the wine stereotypes that you have encountered?

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