A fellow walked into a wine shop the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and asked if they had any Silver Oak, a big-time Napa wine that leaves wine snobs weak in the knees. Nope, all gone, said the employee. Well, then how about B.R. Cohn (another pricey cab)? Nope, but I do have Andrew Geoffrey, said the employee (yet another $100 Napa cab).
The customer looked askance at her, shook his head no, and walked out. Which led me to wonder: What's the difference between that customer, whose palate is restricted to not just $100 wines, but specific $100 wines, and the white zinfandel drinker, who won't touch anything else?
None at all.
One reason that wine isn't more popular in the U.S. is that we have been taught not to take chances. The Wine Magazines slap a score on a wine and defy consumers to try something else. The fellow in the wine shop didn't know about wine; he knew which wines to buy, which is not the same thing. No one had told him the Geoffrey was OK, so he wasn't going to buy it. And I shudder to think what what would have happened if I had opened my mouth and suggested the $12 Avalon Napa cabernet.
That's the same approach the white zinfandel drinker takes. If the wine isn't pink and sweet, they don't want it. No amount of pleading or cajoling will get them to try a fruity rose or a sweet German white. Which is my objection to white zinfandel, by the way. Go ahead and drink it -- just be willing to try other wines.
No doubt the guy in the store would think I'm crazy for writing this. How could I compare him with a white zin drinker? But learning about wine is about drinking wine, and he doesn't. He drinks labels.
Why do I know more about wine than most people? It's not because I'm smarter, but because I taste more wine, certainly more than 500 a year. And I don't care what it is or where it's from. Yes, the Maui pineapple wine wasn't very good, but I wouldn't have known that unless I drank it.
How else are you going to know something is worth drinking unless you taste it?