On wine

I find wine absurd. That's not to say I don't like drinking it. I'd drink it at work if I could! But how do you choose one? Seriously ... by what criteria does one purchase wine?

This was well summed up by a friend of mine who, at 19, entered a liquor store in our hometown of North York and suggested, "we're looking for a good bottle of wine." Following this, we went to a hardware store and asked for "a good thing."

Fifteen years later, I have added a bit to my knowledge of wine, but I'm not sure if any of the knowledge is useful; I know that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are grapes, that Napa Vally and Bordeaux are regions (and that you could probably spend weeks in Bordeaux and come away describing it as an indecipherable taxonomy of applied geography). But still, is it useful? Useful means that I can predict pretty well what tastes good.

Well, a few nights ago I drank a bottle of Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2007. And it tasted very good. I think it was the best wine I can remember drinking, and I remember at least the first two thirds of it.

I think it was $15 at the LCBO; not a big price. I took a different approach to finding it; I think, a logical approach. I had come across the name Robert Parker Jr.; an American wine reviewer who is both an anti-elite in his bucolic homestead and unrefined upbringing, and, relative to folks like Billy Munnelly, confidently snobbish about really good wine. Unlike many anti-snobs, Parker doesn't balk at drinking a $60 wine or calling it as better than a lot of $12 wine.

There's some backlash against Parker: who is this nobody from nowhere-USA? Even if he is somebody, he's destroying wine by favouring certain rich, heavy types and forcing small and large vintners to comply.

Perhaps, but I don't care. Like I said, I want to drink wine that tastes good. And Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2007, bought on Parker's recommendation, tasted great.

So, my approach was simple. I discovered that some of Parker's ratings can be accessed at Wine.com -- specifically, with a click from the homepage, they lay out the wines that are highly rated and that cost under $20. The rating system is a bit odd, but it's enough to know that a rating of 80 is good, 90 is excellent and 95+ is very excellent. So, I just cross-referenced what RP (as Robert Parker's ratings are symbolized with) rated highly with what the LCBO sells (it turns out, correlation is poor).

Now, I learned very little about earth or limestone or breezes or rivers or Chateaus or grafting or anything to find a nice wine. I just learned Robert Parker's name and did what he said. He seems to correlate with my taste.

My point is not that people should be sheeple. Rather, it's that I cannot access wine with the approach commonly presented by the greater wine industry. Even Billy Munnelly's 3-type breakdown failed me; they all tasted not that great.

In my view, drinking wine should be a journey (I cannot but hear Adam Clayton's "A musical journey!"). I mean, if you go to Ireland, you don't go first to the geography and then to the people and then to the food. You do it all at once; you mash it all up, and how you make sense of it is through experience (sensuous). A hamburger in Doolin while chatting with young hitchhikers and listening to traditional Irish music is sensuous; it's a discrete moment and memory. As a moment, it can be used to understand other things; is this music like that music? Is a hamburger considered Irish food or foreign food? What's common and what's different between the generations?

I'd love to find a book, perhaps an annual book, written as a wine journey for the uninitiated. Why not! You start with something bold, then learn one thing about it and why it's bold. Then you go to an Ontario Merlot, and try to understand what's different about them. And so on.

I think I could understand one or two bottles a week; but I cannot understand 75 of anything, at least not all at once. I need to work my way through them, experientially, creating context using useful, common criteria.

So, wine! Get your act together. Write something useful, you stained, fruity lallygag.

PS -- next up:
MAIPE MALBEC 2008 Argentina | Proviva
VINTAGES 93823 | 750 mL | $ 12.95