I love wine for two wholly disparate reasons:
1) It is delicious
2) It is interesting
While reason #1 has gotten the most play on the relatively short life of this blog, today I want to talk about reason #2. I first got into wine the way most people do: someone pours you a glass of something good and you have that tremendous "Oh shit!" moment (this was mine, a 1994) when you realize that whatever is in your glass is special. The pleasure of drinking wine is what hooks us. For me, what made wine more than something I like to drink now and again was the intellectual aspect of it. And that, in a nutshell, is why I am completely addicted to trying wines from regions I've never tasted from before. This is what I'm referring to when I say "Drinking, Off the Beaten Path."
There are two ways that this concept manifests itself in my wine buying and consumption. The first is that I seek out bottles that are from regions I have never heard of, though they are located in "traditional" winemaking countries. An example would be finding a wine from a region like Irouleguy in the very southwest of France. Though I have drunk a lot of French wine, I have never found an Irouleguy. Right now my goal is to find wine from the Canary Islands--a goal that is likely suspended until my next visit to NYC. The second, and I think more fun, way to drink off the beaten path is to try wines from countries/states you've never had wine from. I almost can't help myself when I encounter a wine on the shelf that's from Slovenia, Uruguay, or Lebanon. It's almost a given that that wine is coming home with me. Why? Why not just stick with the wines you know you like? It's a fair question, since often these mystery wines end up down the drain (like an absolutely horrid 2001 Amadeu Tannat from Brazil), but I love the idea that I am getting a tiny glimpse into life, or at least the viticulture, of these places. It's like traveling only less expensive (and more delicious).
At last count I've tried wine from 22 countries and 10 US states. And there are plenty more I want to try. On the international side, I can't wait to try the up and coming sparkling wines from England, or the Koshu wines from Japan. As for the USA, there are wineries in every state, and while I have hit CA, OR, WA, NM, VA, WV, MA, CT, VT, and NY, I still want to check out the wines from Idaho, Texas, and Arizona.
So, what's the purpose of this post? To talk about an awesome wine that I recently had, obviously!
Wolffer Estates Merlot "Estate Selection" hails from the Hamptons on New York's Long Island.
I've previously had Wolffer's Cab Franc (in fact if you look carefully you can spot it on the banner picture of this blog), and absolutely loved it, so when I found this bottle in my Mom's basement, I decided that it should be opened.
We're on a bit of an unintentional Merlot kick here at WOS, but it seems appropriate given the disregard shown to the grape by the masses. This wine was NOTHING like your typical California Merlot with it's syrupy, jammy fruit and vanilla oak. This wine showed the structure and minerality that comes from the cool climate of the Hamptons. While this wine had plenty of fruit left, it was drinking at maturity and was better with food than it was alone (to me, the sign of a well-made wine).
So, go forth and try wines from places you've never considered before! When you see that bottle of Georgian Rkatsiteli, Slovenian Tokai Furmint, or Pineau d'Aunis from the Loire Valley, buy it and drink it! It'll probably be delicious, and it'll definitely be fun.