A Sudden Need to Wine
All my life I’ve hated wine. Until last week. I’m not really sure why but I guess it’s been slowly building and I finally
like it can tolerate it more than I used to.
How to Tempt the 20-Somethings?
By Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
“Wine has a stuffy image.” “Wine labeling is too complex.” “There are too many wine choices and styles.”
We’re twice the age of the 20- to 25-year-old occasional wine drinkers around the globe whose opinions above were solicited in a recent study by Vinexpo, organizer of the world’s largest wine and spirits exhibition. We’ve both earned sommelier certificates to boot. Still, we found ourselves nodding in agreement at the first two of those three opinions culled from survey results released last month.
The 100 respondents, who live in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Japan, expressed a definite curiosity about wine. The problem? They are discouraged by the amount of time and effort they think it takes to learn how to appreciate wine.
Anything that makes wine easier to understand and enjoy is a boon to 20-something wine drinkers, not to mention the rest of us.
So we applaud the entertaining new wine book “Educating Peter” (Scribner, $25), whose subtitle is “How I Taught a Famous Movie Critic the Difference Between Cabernet and Merlot, or How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert.” It chronicles author Lettie Teague’s Pygmalionesque efforts to transform Rolling Stone magazine film reviewer Peter Travers from a “wine idiot” (according to the book’s jacket) into a connoisseur. Travers’s confidence is ultimately tested at a wine auction and in a restaurant encounter with an opinionated sommelier.
Studded with Hollywood names and factoids (director Martin Scorsese’s favorite wine is Chianti), the book teaches the basics, from how wine is made, served and tasted to characteristics of wines from the Old World (Europe) and the New World (most of the rest of the globe).
It’s a hook that’s ideal for young wine lovers and movie buffs who find wine encyclopedias off-putting, given not only Rolling Stone’s mostly under-30 demographics but also the number of film-world luminaries involved in wine. Director Francis Ford Coppola owns the well-regarded Rubicon Estate in California, and many actors have put their names on bottles around the globe, from Australia (Olivia Newton-John) to Canada (Dan Aykroyd) to Italy (Lorraine Bracco) to New Zealand (Sam Neill) to France’s Bordeaux region (Gérard Depardieu, who partners with legendary winemaker Bernard Magrez).
Bordeaux is also the home of Chateau Cheval Blanc. History’s biggest fictional merlot defamer, Miles in the 2004 film “Sideways,” lost his heart to a 1961 Cheval Blanc, but one irony you don’t hear in the movie is this: The wine is a merlot blend. The much-vaunted Bordeaux Petrus, one of the world’s most expensive wines (with the 1995 vintage fetching $1,000), also is merlot-based.
But everyday merlot isn’t stuffy. It’s a soft, juicy, drinkable wine. In fact, its simplicity can be considered one of its virtues.
Merlot, like certain actors, just has an image problem. “Educating Peter” author Teague describes merlot as “equal to chardonnay as the most easily pronounceable grape and the most culturally maligned. And yet it’s not a simple grape; like chardonnay, it too is capable of producing great wine.”
Like popcorn at the movies, merlot is a crowd pleaser — especially to those who, like the 20-somethings surveyed by Vinexpo, reportedly want their wines “light, fruity and refreshing.” Merlot isn’t always as light or fruity as some pinot noirs, nor as tannic as some cabernet sauvignons.
Foodwise, it complements a broad range, including tomato-sauced pastas, roast beef and lamb, and cheese.
You’ll find some of the best merlots from Washington state, California’s Napa Valley, Chile, Italy’s Tuscan coast and (of course) France — namely, the Right Bank of Bordeaux in Pomerol, which tends to be rather high-priced, and St.-Emilion, which at least offers better prices than Pomerol.
Our advice to 20-something wine lovers, and those who concur with their opinions: Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Wine isn’t inherently stuffy, although certain wine snobs might deserve that description. Bear with the changing state of wine labels, which are improving at a rapid clip to become easier to read, often with food-pairing advice. And rather than be discouraged by the variety of wine choices and styles, think of it this way: Such a wide assortment holds the promise of great pleasure yet to be experienced.
Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, award-winning authors of “What to Drink With What You Eat” and other books, can be reached through their Web site at http://www.becomingachef.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.