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Liquid Language

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Tasting notes, sommelier descriptions, critic reviews and of course I can’t forget the winemaker’s impression on a back label. Each scenario is full of words; verbs that are meant to connect with you, evoke a response that makes you thirsty, and pull the cork. The language used for explaining the way a wine tastes is often confusing, and certainly amusing to me, who listens to the buzz words that are currently popular among the trade. Discussions of ‘minerality’, ‘heat’ and ‘unicorns’ draw out my cackle, as I taste in silence and simply decide whether or not I like the wine.

Marketing a wine is a work of art, and one that is most sought after when painted with millions. The label on a bottle sometimes speaks louder than any individual’s impression could, shouting from the shelves of a retail store or the list at a restaurant, that the wine is perfect for you. It is sold as a commodity, something that will make you more popular, prettier, skinnier, and maybe even the President some day. The wine inside is of no consequence, because if enough of you buy what the label is selling, then there will be even more next year. I am at a disadvantage, since I taste through these wines and more everyday, but it certainly makes me question the direction of the industry. Money can buy you happiness, but only until it runs out, and then what? The wine is sold on closeout and you have an addiction to yesterday’s fashion.

Sommeliers are you best friend, unless they aren’t. I usually look for an overly-tailored grey suit, with flashy socks peeping out between pant hems and shoes. If that’s the case, I’ll take my chances and scan the list of a wine that sounds familiar. Should the wine geek working the restaurant floor appear less like a hipster, I will gladly ask for advice. I will share what I like, what I don’t like, what I’m hungry for, what I want to spend. And then I will ask: ‘What do you like?’ The answer I receive will be my ultimate guide, because I know what I like more than anyone. A sommelier is your best friend if they listen to you, and pick a wine for you. Color-schemed outfits and wines bottled from clay amphorae without temperature control or added sulfites are scary and unpredictable. You deserve a bottle that you can count on, and someone who agrees with you.

Rating wines is one of the oldest tricks in the industry. For 95 points and $45 dollars, you will drink the best wine of your life. Right. And for 10 months and $priceless, I will ask to have a vacuum appear at the same time as an 8 pound baby. That’s the catch. You and I are very different people, and therefore different from whatever wine critic is convincing you, that you would love this wine. I, for example, love wines that have high acid, complex fruit and non-fruit flavors, and low alcohol. You may love wines that are fruit-focused, spicy and bent over inside of an oak barrel. You would not like the wines that I rate 95 points, and I would choke down a glass of your favorite and leave you with the bill. I encourage you to read the scores attached to each wine, but then I ask that you think how that resonates with the glass you have in hand now.

Wine is more than delicately scripted letters on embossed paper. Wine is personal, and something that should be embraced as closely as your first love. Believe in what you love, and follow your palate.

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