Monday, April 26, 2010

The Importance of Wine Knowledge

Let’s face it: Most people don’t have the chance to drink all the great wines they want to. And, indeed, for most wine lovers, there are names out there that retain a sense of magic, not least because they exist in such a rarified part of the wine world that precious few consumers ever have the chance to taste them, much less to do so frequently enough to wrap their minds around what makes them so special.

But the names are widely well-known even if the juice isn’t: The First Growths of Bordeaux, like Latour and Lafite, and Right Bank legends like Petrus; the top Grands Crus of Burgundy; Champagnes like the Krug Clos du Mesnil; we all know them, by reputation, certainly, even if not by first-hand experience of aroma and flavor.

And while actually getting these wines in the glass is often the wine-world equivalent of finding the proverbial white whale for most wine lovers, understanding what makes them so special in the first place is hugely instructive. After all, they are products of the land, and of the specific grape-growing and winemaking decisions that affect all wines. It’s just that, by some combination of factors both natural and human (though the former certainly precedes the latter in importance), they exist in a realm apart from their more common--and more easily accessible--counterparts.

Which is why it’s so worthwhile to take a look at the cover story, about the fabled Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, in the new issue of Wine Spectator Magazine. (It’s linked up here in its entirety.) For though most people will never have the chance to taste, say, a great old bottle of DRC Romanée-Conti, understanding what makes it so special is bound to increase your knowledge when it comes to other wines, too. And knowledge--understanding as much about the wine in your glass as possible--is one of the keys to a deeper level matter what you’re drinking.


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