The Foodie Report
Ruminations on food, cooking in and eating out in our area.

It's entirely possible to be a vegetarian in Porkopolis. Pop culture reporter Lauren Bishop blogs about products, recipes and restaurants she's tried for others who eat meat-free. E-mail her at lbishop@enquirer.com.

Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at nking@enquirer.com.

Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at rrichardson@enquirer.com.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

How to Like Wine

So a new book includes a study in which a wide variety of wine drinkers were given unlabeled glasses of wine and asked to rate them. Overall, they liked the cheaper wine better. Cheap sparkling wine won, in general, over Dom Perignon. Great! say the people who feel a little cowed by all the people who seem to know what they're talking about and who will pay as much for one bottle of wine as some of us pay for a case at Trader Joe's -- and feel it was worth it. Those people are making it all up!

But it turns out those people who truly appreciate and understand wine can tell the difference. Wine professionals in the study did prefer the Dom Perignon. So the conclusion can't be that there is no difference between wines, the conclusion has to be that a lot of us just can't taste it.

It takes some development of your senses to get it. Just like listening to classical music, or learning Chinese. When you first start listening, you can't tell the difference between Mozart and Wagner. If you listen enough, you can tell Mozart from Hayden, then one Mozart symphony from another, then whether you like a particular interpretation, and finally you can identify who's conducting it and who's probably playing bassoon. Chinese goes from babble to a real language that means something. It always did before, you just couldn't hear it. So if you have the inclination, the time, and the money, you can do the same thing with wine. It's a great adventure of the senses. I enjoy every new thing I learn, and I have waaay more I could begin to comprehend.

But you don't have to! It's completely optional. It's a hobby, like collecting vintage jazz or train-spotting. If you don't have much money, it's probably better never to try, and you can be perfectly happy with Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc.

Which I think is a win-win proposition. Just make sure you're comfortable at whatever level you're at, and don't let anyone push you into a different one. Don't pretend you like pinot noir over merlot if you can't actually tell the difference, and never, never, let a restaurant snob you into paying more for wine than you can appreciate.


at 4:26 PM Blogger Mark Mascolino said...

Here. Here. And once you know a little about some varietals, try a new grape. I like doing that because the cheap stuff still surprises me with different flavors to experience.

at 7:32 PM Anonymous Jason said...

I agree with Mark. I think trying new varietals is equivalent to the spice of life in wine. You can start at the lower end of the price scale to see if you enjoy and then move up the ladder to see how it improves. Two new ones I have been enjoying lately are Aglianico and Nero d' Avola which are both from southern Italy.

at 1:50 AM Anonymous Not Most People said...

Most people liked the cheaper wine?

So what?

'Most people' in this nation eat McDonald's, chug pop, drink swill like Bud & Miller and watch sh*t like American Idol. It's The Lowest Common Denominator. The Unwashed Masses.

American's pallet's are, by and large, simply dreadful. A bunch of pedestrian philistines who have awful, horrid taste. Don't believe me? Look what 'most people' around you are buying the next time that you are at the grocery store; Chef Boyardee, frozen pizza, Ho-Ho's, Wonderbread, Bologney, Mountain Dew and worse.

Oh, Ye Gods..........

at 8:25 AM Anonymous pedestrian and proud said...

Oh no, "pedestrian" girl is back on here with her elitism and condesencion.

at 8:46 AM Blogger Polly Campbell said...

I just erased a snarky comment because I want to set a good example, and am going to replace it with this one, because I like words as much as I like food and certain things drive me crazy.

The top of your mouth is your palate. For some reason that is the word that has come to mean "your ability to discern different tastes" or just your sense of taste. It should probably be "tongue" instead, but there you go--I guess people used to think that was where you tasted things. "Palette" is the thin board artists use to dab bits of paint on, and it sort of makes sense that people would use this to mean "sense of taste" because it conveys a meaning of a range of colors and possibilities. I don't know if that's why I see it used incorrectly everywhere. But the word is, in fact, palate. Plural: palates.

at 9:13 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw a news "expose" recently that had yuppies sampling vodka... Of course, they ALL drank Grey (Gray?) Goose regularly, apparently the vodka of the power youngsters.
In the blind taste test, they all uniformly DESPISED the Goose!
I thought that was an interesting study in human behavior. We drink what's cool, not necessarily what we like.
I'm sure the same goes for wines...

at 10:32 AM Anonymous vudutu said...

Personally I don't think you have to, or should pay outrageous prices for wine. There are lots of good wines in my 8 to 15 dollar target range. Drink what you like and can afford. But I agree with "not most people" It does not surprise me at all that most people liked the cheaper wine. Mind you I am a TJs fan and they do have some decent wines there, but look at the success of the 2buck yuck swill. Or the over oaked, big plastic tata's west coast wines. The more I mature the more I come to question Darwinism.

at 11:26 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best wine is what you like and what tastes best to you. Who cares if others consider it "pedestrian" or gauche. If your wine of choice is $5 Lambrusco or 2 buck Chuck then how wonderful that you have found a wine that you enjoy and which gives you pleasure. This doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't try tasting other wines to expand your horizons, but if it's what you enjoy then good for you.
Polly do you remember that group that started on the West Coast several years back called The Wine Brats? I believe they were a group of young people (including some heirs to vast fortunes)who tried to demystify wine for the average person. They wanted to eliminate some of the snobbery that surrounds wine so that it could be enjoyed by more people.

at 8:09 PM Anonymous Michelle said...

I agree that you should not let anyone pressure you. I write about wine all the time and some of my favorites are in the under $15 Spanish section. There are some great deals there, and I can always find something new to try.
Wine is easy, if you just go for what you like. I like Rose, my husband does not. Drink what you like, eat what you like, and just enjoy!

Oh, I think the "Anonymous" poster I just read was referring to the Three Thieves guys - some Sebastiani kids were in there, as well as someone else.

at 8:33 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found the link to their website. They have local chapters. Perhaps we should start one here in Cincy.


at 9:11 AM Blogger Polly Campbell said...

there was some attempt at a Wine Brats chapter here maybe 8 years ago. I think Jimmy Gherardi was involved, at least he's the one who told me about it.

I remember from that discussion the phrase "It's just a beverage" which I never felt was quite the right message, because wine clearly can be way more than a beverage--but it can be enjoyed at many levels.

at 10:15 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting since I think I heard about wine brats from Jimmy G too. It seems that they have refined their message a bit: nothing on the web site about wine just being a beverage, but the mission of eliminating the snobbiness that sometimes accompanies wine remains.

at 9:12 AM Anonymous Chad Edward said...

Isn't the misconception here that high price equates great quality in wine? There's probably a general positive correlation, but good wine can be found under $15.

I disagree, however, that newbies should start cheap, at least in the way it's meant here. Find a Wine Spectator and browse the top quality value wines if you want to start cheap; but, if you buy a cheap box of wine, and it's horrible, you'll think you don't like wine.

Find a quality wine in your price range to enjoy.

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