A lady walks into a wine shop and asks for a nice cabernet sauvignon for her dinner that night. The wine consultant suggests a wonderful reserve cab from Alexander Valley. Here’s the punch line: The lady says, “I only drink cabernets from Napa Valley.”
While true, the above story above is no joke. Many of us wine lovers have gotten so wrapped up in our comfort zone that we box ourselves in to our own detriment. Not only do we spend more money than we have to (the above-mentioned customer walked out with a $50 wine, when the $35 wine I suggested would have done the trick), we often miss out on a better wine.
Far be it for me to cast stones. I am as guilty as anyone. Here’s another true story:
Another lady walks into the wine shop and describes in great detail a Tuscan white bean dish that she wants me pair a wine with. She tells me that she wants to make a good impression with a wine that not only accentuates the meal but is perhaps a little unexpected. I am fairly certain a grechetto (a white wine grape generally found in Umbria, Italy) with its earthiness and subtle herbaceous notes would be a knock out with the rosemary-laden white beans.
What do I do? Even thought the grechetto I had in mind is right in front of us, I punt. It has been so long since I’ve tasted a grechetto that I’m unsure of how it would turn out. I recommend a deliciously complex pinot grigio from Alto Adige that would absolutely work, but is a pinot grigio unexpected? I don’t think so.
Angry with myself, I shuffle through my stacks of wines and taste three wines that would might dance nicely with a white bean stew. I pull out a grechetto, a grechetto-trebbiano blend (both from Umbria) and a falanghina from Campania. All three would have worked as good, if not better, than the $25 pinot grigio. In fact, the 100 percent grechetto from Arnaldo-Caprai, the very wine that I almost handed to my customer, would have been a smash hit. It only hurts more that it costs $5 less than the pinot grigio.
I’ve long advocated trying different and unique wines merely for the sake of trying new wines. Our human nature fairly demands that we explore the many facets of the wine world. But if you really want to get something extraordinary out of your food-wine pairings, you owe it to yourself, your guests—and sometimes your customers—to remain in awe the many wine choices we have been blessed with. Try as many new wines as you have time for.
Gil Kulers is a certified wine educator and a wine consultant for Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.