“Once you know what you like, you’re already an expert.” This is a phrase I use all too often in the tasting room for intimidated newbies and, in many ways, I believe it. Sounds pretty simple and inviting right? Sadly, the man behind curtain would agree that there’s more to enjoying wine than simply sticking to what you’ve previously found easy and comfortable. The world of wine is dying to be discovered in each and every soul. Yes, if you’re a novice drinker and find Franzia to be smooth and elegant then that’s your prerogative. I’ll even find myself enjoying a nice glass of boxed wine on a summer camping trip. But for me to say you’re an expert in my tasting room needs the accompaniment of a little more explanation.
No one, and I mean no one, has ever been born with an amazing wine palate. It’s a physiological and psychological structure, if you will, built with experience, dedication, and attention to every subtle detail inhabited by the wines we’ve had in our past. An expert might know more than one can conceive, but life has shown me the true best of the best are always willing to learn and be proven wrong. I say this because no one should ever “know what they like” and refuse to veer from that path claiming to be an expert on their own palate; you never know how much you could be missing out on. For example, I’ve had roughly twenty different Tempranillos (Spain’s “noble grape” often referred to as the Spanish Cabernet) as of late, and I have yet to find one that truly tickles my fancy. Will I stop drinking Tempranillo? NO! All it means is that I get the luxury of being “forced” to keep drinking more until I find one I like. Yes, there’s the possibility that the day won’t come, but to be honest I’ll never know. There’s too much wine in the world to ever stop searching.
Certainly taste what you know you like, but never be against branching out from time to time. The saddest thing one could ever do to is become unwilling and close-minded. This goes for everything, not just wine. The honest reason I jumped into the wine industry is to help expand the palate of the young and willing world, as well as my own. Develop and build your palate by taking chances, stepping outside of your preconceived box, and letting the world of vino come alive in you. Just for fun, next time you stop in the any tasting room or wine shop, tell the worker to grab a wine he or she thinks you’ve never had before. You can always let them know the wine you usually drink so as to help narrow down the selection. I’m not saying one can’t have “their wine”, but don’t choose it every time. Simply acknowledge it as your safety net, but seize every opportunity to experience something new. Who knows, you might find a suggestible Tempranillo for yours truly. Wine is life so make it a good one!
About The Author
Ben Hilzinger is a wine slinger at Nectar Tasting Room and at the Arbor Crest Winery. During the day he masquerades as an aspiring drum teacher seeking to instill a sense of rhythm in wanna be rockers. In the evening Ben dons his rock star cape as a drummer for a local band. Ben hopes to share the love of wine with his generation and has aspirations to be a wine maker.