Welcome to the Stephen Asprinio Wine Blog. Simply put, this blog is for the savvy, the curious, and the speculative minds that wonder, “What is the deal with wine?”
Wine is such an intricate subject, and it takes a bit of motivation to really immerse oneself into the wonderful world of wine. The motivation, for me at least, has always been what’s in the bottle, and how a particular wine comes to life, from grape to glass. First off though, I wanted to include some background on wine, in regards to how the wine drinking community as a whole has grown over the past thirty to forty years. For too long, wine has held a pretentious reputation. Unfortunately, in the past, there have been cases where wine drinkers felt it necessary to use their knowledge of wine to compensate for their lacking in other areas (small “male organs”, low self esteem, etc.), projecting a very snooty, elitist attitude about wine, and not simply embracing it for what it is -- an art form. This in turn created a negative connotation associated with wine, and consequently turned many people off from the holy grape juice altogether.
At a point, the majority of “fine wine” consumption (wine based on quality, not necessarily price) was exclusive to a particular class because the majority remained under the impression that fine wine was expensive and only attainable by the wealthy. Many lacked education, and/or simply have never been exposed to wines say, from outside the U.S. In the end though, after years of Wine Spectator, Food & Wine magazine, and many others providing information to what quality wine is and how readily available it is from around the world, the truth unveiled itself, and the reality of wine and its simplistic beauty became evident.
This leads me to my next bit that good wine is everywhere, and exists for the sole purpose of enjoyment through consumption. Yes, some feel the need to gawk at the label on the bottle, smell the wine continuously, and then go into an endless rant on what the phenolic compounds in the wine mean to them and their life in general. The reality is, the men and women who pour every bit of their passion and effort into what you find inside the bottle, don’t want you to overanalyze the wine. Instead, they’d rather you enjoy it.
When first approaching a wine, out of respect as well as for self-benefit, it is good form to execute a brief evaluation on the wine...quick look, sniff, swirl, sniff again, and then taste. Then, just let it flow. After the first impression, you will get what the winemaker was trying to convey in the bottle, whatever the case may be in the taste profile.
The idea is to broaden your palate continuously, and hone in on what style you seem to enjoy most. Personally, I’m a sucker for Champagne, Burgundy, and Austrian Riesling, while others may lean more towards the Rhone and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Everyone has his or her preferences. The most important part, once you establish your likes and dislikes, is to be able to differentiate between good wine and bad wine. Good wine, like good food, is balanced. A good wine is like a perfectly executed dish, made with fresh ingredients -- the seasoning is on point, the dish is cooked properly, and all the flavors come together in harmony to create a pleasurable experience on the palate. A good wine follows suit, and starts with grapes picked at the ideal ripeness, and is then vinified into a wine where the proper acidity, alcohol, and sugar levels are achieved, thus creating balance.
Bad wine however, is unbalanced. A bad wine will stand out, and you will know it (the alcohol is too high, the acidity is too low in proportion to the residual sugar level, etc).
Lastly, a note on spoiled wine, as opposed to bad wine. Bad wine, like bad food is a product of sub-par ingredients and poor technique/execution. Spoiled wine however, is insufferable. Spoiled wine can come from the best winemakers, as well as the worst. These wines come about after the fact, and are so due to bacteria, heat, and other factors outside the winemaker’s control once the bottle leaves the winery.
10% of wine is tainted in some manner, whether subject to TCH (corked), oxidized or simply stored improperly. All too often, wine consumers sense something off, but discard it because they’re unsure of their palates. Trust you senses! If you’re dining in a restaurant, and you don’t like the wine, ask the sommelier or manager what he or she thinks. If they can’t provide a reasonable explanation (other than “that’s the way the wine is” without anything further), you were probably right.