There’s only one rule in wine:
If you like it, it’s good.
It doesn’t matter if the wine is cheap or expensive; from a particular region; exclusive or widely distributed; or a particular varietal.
It’s your taste buds that ultimately determine whether or not you like a wine. Everything else is just noise.
This rule is often applied to tasting new wine, but it also applies to wine you’ve enjoyed before.
Wine can vary greatly from vintage to vintage, and even from bottle to bottle. There’s a million factors that might impact the taste.
Two glasses of wine might come from the same winery, made by the same winemaker, with grapes from the same vineyard, but if they come from different bottles they’re not the same wine.
Here are a few examples:
We recently attended a Dog Point tasting at Village Vino. The 2010 Dog Point Pinot Noir was an excellent example of New Zealand Pinot but alas, our supply ran out.
The 2009 vintage was being poured at this tasting. Being a year older should make it that much better, right?
Nope. Not this time. The 2009 was good, but not nearly as tasty to our palate as the 2010.
We could have tried to talk ourselves in to liking it better and bought a case of the 2009, but our taste buds don’t lie. Instead, we left empty-handed.
Another example came courtesy of Robert Biale’s Black Chicken Zinfandel. This legendary Zinfandel can ruin your taste for merely mortal Zin by raising your expectations impossibly high. The 2010 vintage was particularly amazing, but we quickly drank through our supply.
We visited the winery last year to check out the 2011 vintage. To our disappointment, it wasn’t nearly the same quality we had come to expect from Black Chicken. We could have talked ourselves into believing this wine really was amazing, but our taste buds don’t lie.
The opposite is true, too. Some wines are surprisingly good, but you might talk yourself out of liking it if you knew too much about it.
Our friends Dave and Sarah once poured us a glass of 2008 Adeline Cabernet Sauvignon when we were having a quick drink before going out.
If we knew in advance that they bought this wine for less than $20 at their local shop, we might try to talk ourselves into believing the wine was decent, for an under $20.
Fortunately, we didn’t have any of these biases. Drinking the wine blind, our initial reaction was, “Damn! This is a really good wine!” I really thought it was a $50 Cab.
Your tastebuds don’t lie.
This simple rule solves a lot of wine problems:
- How long should you lay down a wine before opening it? Answer: try drinking several vintages side by side to see what you prefer.
- Should you use an aerator? Answer: try drinking a glass that’s aerated next to a glass that isn’t.
- What’s the right serving temperature? Answer: try several different temperatures side-by-side.
Some people make wine less fun and accessible by getting pretentious about what you should and should not do.
I’ll admit that you won’t ever catch me pouring Sutter Home White Zinfandel over a glass of ice, but if that’s what floats your boat then have at it.
Whatever you do, just remember the one rule: If you like it, it’s good.
And the easiest way to follow that rule is to trust your palate. Your tastebuds don’t lie.