It’s something we are all guilty of at some point, judging a book by its cover. Often it comes from a place of previous experiences or lack of knowledge. The part that’s kind of great about these preconceived notions is that, if you take the chance or look past the cover, sometimes it gives you the opportunity to be pleasantly surprised. How does this relate to my life and wine?
I don’t usually admit my age to people without them asking, and not because I care about age, but because I know I’m quite young for this business. When I interviewed with Woodberry Wine for the first time, they were hesitant, and perhaps, they should have been. I was 24 with limited wine experience; I had been serving tables for about eight years, and had recently finished a Bachelors of Science in Biology from Michigan State University.
Following my initial phone call, I was unsure of where I stood with Woodberry Wine. While I was still waiting tables, I knew I wanted to expand my wine knowledge. I read books, talked with people, I respected in the industry, and continued my blind tastings. Soon thereafter, I signed up for, and passed my Level 1 Sommelier exam on the first try! Then a few months later, still riding high on my recent success, after I thought the opportunity had passed, Woodberry called. I hid the elation in my voice and tried my darnedest to be professional, all the while grinning through the phone like the Cheshire cat. This was a great moment for me; but the best part was where I got to hear their pleasant surprise of my 25 year old cover.
What do you or your customers think of pink wine? Rosé wine has definitely been getting traction over the past few years, but many people still see pink and think sweet. I recently did a tasting with the Chateau La Tour de Beraud 2012 Costiéres de Nimes Rosé, and during the event I had multiple people almost stop me from pouring it in their glass and said: “Oh no! I don’t like sweet wines.” After reassuring them that this was no white zinfandel, they reluctantly tried it. You could see the look of pleasant surprise on their faces as they got to have their “Wow!” moment. They got to taste that this wasn’t just another sugary wine, but is in fact a beautiful blend of dry minerality, florality and light fruit flavor.
I recently had a chance to spend a day with Simon Barker, of Barker’s Marque wines. We talked a lot about preconceived notions and the role they play in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Simon and his team are committed to erasing the idea that all Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc tastes the same. They own 85 acres in Marlborough and make four different styles of Sauvignon Blanc that will make you question what you previously thought of this grape and the region. Their ‘Ranga Ranga’ is what Simon calls “traditional Sauvignon Blanc”. It is absolutely beautiful with a punching acidity that makes your mouth water for more. if you don’t believe me, Wine & Spirits Magazine also thinks so, giving it 91 points, one of the “Top 100 Values of the Year” and “Year’s Best New World Sauvignon Blanc” in their June 2014 issue. When you try it and think “Dang, that’s great wine!” just remember there are three more and you won’t believe the differences. They just might make you change your opinion on Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough.
With the ever expanding places in the world to produce wine, people start to jump to conclusions after just a few tries. Stating “I like this and I like that but I hate that”, when most times they haven’t given it a fair shot, is just not open-minded. South Africa seems to be one of those places people often reference when they start talking about ruling out an entire country’s wines. The idea is that their wine making practices aren’t up to our standards or that everything will taste dirty or like burning rubber and Band-Aids. Obviously this reputation didn’t come out of thin air and some producers aren’t making quality juice, but a vast array of wine from South Africa isn’t like this at all. If there is a wine that will absolutely change opinions on South African wine, the Stark-Conde 2011 Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon will be the one. This wine is gorgeous, lush, and expertly made. It is everything you want in a Cabernet and nothing like its preconceived notions would lead you to believe. Wine Spectator supports my humble opinion giving it a rave review and 92 points.
Just as Woodberry Wine gave me a chance, these wines deserve a chance at proving themselves beyond their cover. Now I get to do what I love every day; sharing wine and breaking preconceived notions.
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