Wine’s Origin Less Important Than Taste

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - November 16, 2011
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More chefs are telling me that their guests are becoming more interested in where their food is coming from and how it is grown. This is part of the slow food movement and a return to the origins of food.

Wine (primarily Old World) has for centuries been known for where it comes from. Wines are literally named after where they come from. There are laws that protect the origin of the wine, and its origin is almost always featured on the label.

But is the origin of a wine really that important to you? I know that it is extremely important to me. But my guess is that it really is not that important to the majority of wine drinkers. And yet, almost every producer, importer, wine writer and wine geek will defend the fact that it is of utmost importance.

I am conflicted because the wines I love the most are wines that truly speak of a place: a unique origin; different from anywhere else on earth. If this wine could be made just anywhere, how could it be truly great?

But there are dozens of’brands, and I say brands because many of these labels are made in such huge quantities that it can be made at several different wineries, that sell tens of thousands of cases of wine in the U.S. alone that do not offer any identity of its origin, save for perhaps the country or the state. These wines are made from a blend of grapes grown in many different regions within the state or even the country and blended to create a wine with a specific flavor profile (and price point) for the market. Some brands even approach or breach the million-case levels of sales in the U.S. These wines may have flavor, but even the best wine taster would be hard-pressed to eke out any characters of origin in the wine.

My guess is that most wine drinkers are quite practical. When we spend our money, we want to make sure that what we buy tastes good to us and that we get enough flavor for our money. What is most important to us is the flavor of the wine. The proof is in the drinking as some like to say. But by this simple flavor measuring stick, what is to separate wine from colas other than alcohol? What is it that elevates wine to something beyond a beverage? It can’t be that it goes better with food than soda. It is the difference in each wine at the point of origin. It is not only the what that is important to our sensibilities, palates and intellect. It is also the why that elevates wine in our culture. And where it comes from and its origin is the source.

Recommendations: 2010 Lagaria Pinot Grigio ($12) This is a great example of a wine that is pleasant to drink without any pretention. It is simple, yet flavorful, aromatic and balanced; and even gulpable. 2009 Knez Demuth Vineyard Pinot Noir ($36) Pinot Noir lovers sit up and pay attention. Knez is making some absolutely delicious and elegant Pinot Noirs, and this is one of them. Sexy, sultry and impressive.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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