Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wine – Demystified

Why does choosing a wine seem intimidating and how can you get over this perceptual hurdle?

Once upon a time, wines primarily came from Europe—mostly France and Italy. The creation of specific wines was based on the blending mastery of winemakers at individual vineyards. Wine connoisseurs waxed poetic about certain vintages (the year a wine was bottled) and the “terroir” (the characteristics of the soil and how it influenced the taste of the wine) of one vineyard or region over another. It all sounds like a private club that only the very wealthy or those with lots of time on their hands can afford to enter.

But today’s wine offerings are a world away from once upon a time. Wine is grown and bottled all over the world, in any climate that will support it, including South and North America, Australia and New Zealand, as well as South Africa. More people than ever are drinking wine and enjoying it without having to learn the intricacies of vintage or terroir.

How is this possible?

For starters, most modern wine is meant to be consumed within 18-24 months after it is bottled. This means that vintage is less important because you really do not want to “cellar” wine to allow it to age. As a result, these “young” wines cost vintners less money to make and can be sold to the public at much lower prices.

Does this mean that only expensive wine is good? Absolutely not. Great tasting wines sell for less than $30 a bottle, with many selling for $15 or less. What wine critics consider a “good” or great wine is based upon its complexity of taste. The average drinker usually does not experience wine they way a critic does, noting nuances and different hints of this and that. But everyone knows when something tastes good and is a wine that they like to drink. It truly is all about personal preference.

Co-opportunity provides a wide range of selections from around the world. We strive to bring you great tasting wines from winemakers who are also concerned with how they grow their grapes and the environmental impact of their vineyards. How the land, the “terroir,” is treated directly affects the wine produced. Happily, a growing number of winemakers around the world are moving in this direction knowing that better environmental stewardship creates better terroir and great tasting wine. Over 60% of the wine we carry is from winemakers who have made a commitment to organic and sustainable wine making.

Our friendly and knowledgeable staff can help you find the wine that is right for you. Whether you need us to recommend wines that we have enjoyed, point out which wines are organic or sustainable, note which winemakers create vegan wines or those without additional sulfites, we are here to help. Of course, it ultimately all comes back to you and what you want to pour in your glass. Enjoying the world of wine is as simple as coupling it with a great meal or just spending time with friends and family.

By Kirsten Lindquist
Cheese, Wine and Speciality Manager
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