If you’re going to discuss wine you probably should either:
- know what you’re doing (Sommelier/Oenologist*)
- Drink a LOT of wine (Connoisseur*)
- have a unique way of classifying wine (Me)
Since I am neither a Sommelier or an Oenologist, nor do a really qualify as a a Connoisseur, I fall into the third category. I’m not a qualified expert on wine, but I do have an opinion. Who doesn’t? But keep in mind, my Momma may have raised a strong, independent woman (much to her dismay and not a true Belle), she didn’t raise a Wine Snob.
Let’s face it, wine rating systems make as much sense as modern repot cards. I’m talking about the ones that are pass/fail…sorry, no one fails any more, so the meets expectations/area for concern. I remember when it was easy to equate a 70 or less to a C grade, or know that D meant you were really failing, but they weren’t going to give you an F. So, while I can read all the literature and I know that an A score is from 90-99+ does that really mean I should buy wine based on a grading system? As a “belle” I know there has to be standards, but why can’t they be more approachable. That’s my aim with this blog.
Check out the full rating system here, and read a summary below.
The Days of the Week
Wine can be classified by a grade, but to make it more approachable, I think of wines by the day of the week they should be drunk. Think of Monday as being the lowest, both in my preference and probably cost. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad wine, it could have a score of 97, but it just doesn’t seem that way to me.
Read the full description here.
If the day of the week doesn’t quite fully cover the wine, or it seems complex, then I might add an occasion to the rating.
There are wines for special occasions, and then there a some things that are just get-togethers. After all, what you’d serve to girls night at the pool is probably not what you’d serve for your mother-in-law’s birthday dinner.
Read the full description here.
My version of discussing varietals, which is by noting where you can buy the wine. While I can appreciate that the terroir* impacts wine, does it really make a difference in rating. Well, yes if you’re a Sommelier/Connoisseur, but for the average person – probably not. What matters is where do I have to buy it?
Read the full description here.
If you don’t read extensively on wine…
Terroir is how the region’s climate, soils and terrain of where the grapes are grown (and wine is made) affect the taste of wine. Some regions are said to have more ‘terroir’ than others. If you want to truly experience a wine that has been impacted by its soil – check out anything from Messina Hof Winery in Texas. The soil around Bryan/College Station has a very unique taste. For a longer description (but still easy to read) check out Wine Folly’s definition here.
Connoisseur – officially defined as “an expert judge in manners of taste.” Think of this as your group of disapproving Aunts who always thought your skirts were too short, your heels too high, and the color you dyed your hair too bold. In other words – a snob. Though, this really is your Cotillion/Debutante Coach or Pageant Advisor. You know, someone with true knowledge and expertise. Someone who has had lots of experience, and probably some actually classes. I don’t claim to be one, just like I’m not a pageant winner, despite the training (and my love of tiaras). My recommended reading for you to start your journey on becoming a Connoisseur is in addition to my blog, check out “9 Steps to Becoming a Wine Expert” from Wine Folly (here) and “How to Become a Wine Connoisseur (15 Useful Tips) from Vino Vest (here).
Sommelier vs Oenologist – who is what?
Bodegas Montecillo, a winery in La Rioja Spain, has one of the best explanations I’ve read. I’ve never visited their winery, but after touring their site, it’s definitely on the list for if I make it back to Spain.
They wrote “The first thing that characterizes a sommelier is that he or she is the consumer representative in the wine cellar, it is to say, the person who will select, according to the given context, the ideal bottle to give the customer a complete and enjoyable experience.”
This is a Connoisseur with education (likely a Diploma in wine, gastronomy and management and/or a Degree in hospitality and management), experience and certification from the Worldwide Sommelier Association (WSA).
In other words, if you know nothing about wine you might want to let them pick the bottle for you when you’re out to dinner – especially on date night, or call ahead if its a business dinner, if you want to look knowledgeable. Or, even if you do know anything about wine (like me) you might want to let them help pick the bottle to go with the dinner out, or when you’re in the store trying to decide what’s going to pair best with Cousin Anna Lee’s funeral potatoes that she insists on bringing to every holiday dinner. You can read more of their explanation here.
But I do like Leisure Job’s description “a specially trained wine waiter.” It makes for a simple explanation.
So, what then is an Oenologist? I really liked Bodegas Montecillo explanation:
“Oenologists are the professionals who supervise not only production in the winery but also the storage, analysis, preservation, bottling and sale of wine.
If sommeliers are responsible for recommending and making sure that wine arrives with the final consumer in the best condition, oenologists are responsible for producing the product.
Oenologists, in layman’s terms, don’t need to know about wine.”
I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself. After all just because cousin Susie Lynn’s third ex-husband is a mechanic, it didn’t mean he actually knew how to drive a car. Read more about Oenologists (and how to become one) here.
While there are rules/philosophies to things like don’t wear white shoes after Labor Day, never wear white to a wedding, or tea length dresses must cover the knees. In truth these are just someone’s opinion that has been passed down for generations. I’m not saying you should break some of the standard social moirés (especially white to weddings), I’m just saying that philosophy’s have to change with the times. If they didn’t then men might all still be stuck wearing a coat and tie to any gathering even if it is hotter than, well…you know, out there.