Monday, April 11, 2011
Rant: Traveling to Wine Country
There are various levels of understanding all subjects, including wine. Your wine knowledge may derive from a book, an instructor, or numerous tassting. Or you might travel to a wine region to gain further knowledge and understanding. That type of comprehension has been on my mind for the past week as I have explored the countries of Argentina and Chile.
Though it may seem self-evident, it bears stating to ensure clarity: Visiting a wine region will likely deepen your understanding of wine. To meet the wine makers, to walk through their vineyards, to immerse yourself in the region's culture, all can contribute to a deeper appreciation and knowledge of the area and its wines. To have the opportunity to question the staff of the winery, to obtain answers to matters which might have previously confused or puzzled you, can be invaluable. A winery's website may present their brief history and philosophy, but that is most often only the bare bones. There is much richer detail to be found by speaking directly to the people of the winery.
I have been learning plenty about Argentina and Chile. I have observed the lands, the vines, the soils, even spending a little time harvesting grapes in both countries. I have watched, and participated in, traditional dances, such as the tango, in both countries. Though not directly related to the wine, it is a valuable cultural experience, helping me to gain a better understanding of the people of the region. And obviously I have been drinking many wines, including some which are not available in the U.S. So many special experiences which cannot be equaled by merely reading a book.
I strongly encourage all wine lovers to visit wine regions, so that you can gain a better comprehension and knowledge. Wine writers are especially urged to do so, to give you a better perspective on wine regions. Travel can be a great experience, one to broaden anyone's horizons. You could visit a Caribbean island, and sit on the beach all day relaxing. Or you could take a more educational vacation and visit places such as Spain, Italy, Paso Robles, or Argentina, and explore their wines, cuisine, and more. If wine is your passion, then such a journey should call to your heart.
Before you visit a wine region, be sure to do some prior research, so that you are not a blank slate when you arrive. You can then arrive with more informed questions, ones that cannot be answered simply by visiting the winery's website. When you get to the region, be proactive, asking questions, participating in as much as you can. If you are offered the opportunity to experience something different, like harvesting grapes, then take it. Try new foods, learn local customs, and have fun. Seize the moment and squeeze every ounce of knowledge out of your trip.
There is no need to worry if your traveling budget is limited, just seek out wine regions and wineries more local to you. Every state in the U.S. now produces wine, and are likely within driving distance of at least a few of them. That will give you options, and then you can save up for a larger trip out of the country, or even just to a different state across the country from you. For example, Massachusetts has 25+ wineries, and many wineries from the rest of the New England states are only two to three hours away. The New York wineries are a slightly longer trip, but still very doable.
Upon my return home this week, I will have the seeds for many fascinating stories about Argentina and Chile. Though I have a few days remaining in Chile, I suspect they will be as compelling as the prior days I have spent in South America. And I will share the fruits of my travels with my readers in the coming weeks.
If you have visited a wine region, do you feel that it led to a better understanding of the region and its wines?