Sunday, April 10, 2011

Stop Being a Red Wine Racist

Is it unbelievably offensive to compare a wine drinker's bugaboo with a despicable social phenomenon that has plagued our nation for centuries? I'm not really sure, but I guess I'm going to find out soon enough.

But, when I have an axe to grind, and my mind's made up on how I'm going to do it, then a picture of that buffoon David Duke in front of a confederate battle flag shouting in log cabin font appears. And I'm pretty sure all racists talk in log cabin font, the most racist of all fonts.

It's nothing new. I hear the "I only drink red wine" proclamation from lots of folks in package stores, at wine tastings, on twitter, etc. I've seen the trends, too. People will start drinking wine; cutting their teeth on Sutter Home White Zinfandel or something like that... chilled, fruity, sweet, and refreshing. I get the appeal. But then, eager to see where it all comes from, someone will take a trip out to Napa or Sonoma or the Willamette Valley. And- with the exception of a few Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, and Pinot Gris here and there- these areas are dominated by dry red wine. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Dry Creek Zinfandel. Willamette Pinot Noir. Based on these visits; considering what shows up on the "reserve" tasting lists; seeing which wines go for the prettiest pennies; well, I can deduce how one would build a perception that all the "great" wines are red, and dry. This is not supposition. I've experienced it first-hand. Man, I've been there.

But I didn't go to the extreme. I know folks who take this attitude too far. They consume all these reds, then determine that red wine is the only acceptable answer. Whites are all served too cold and taste like butterscotch and pineapples, right? Why look the fool wasting time with those rotgut bottles when all the true aficionados are sipping on Silver Oak Cab?

Call them elitists. Call them closed-minded. Maybe they're a bit snobby. But I have another way to describe these folks.

They are red wine racists.

I posit that these wine racists choose to avoid whites because they think that white wine is of lower quality. They believe that white wines lack complexity, taste fruity and oaky, come served ice cold, and don't pair well with steak. Essentially, because the ubiquitous California Chardonnay doesn't suit their palates, all white wines are inferior. Okay, I guess this is more "wine stereotyping". But that just doesn't have the inflammatory, yellow-journalistic sizzle that "wine racism" espouses.

It's really a shame that Cali Chardonnay seems to be the far-and-away ambassador of white wines served at popular restaurants, wedding receptions, birthday parties, tailgates, swingers' clubs, Krull conventions, derailed Al-Anon meetings, and pagan goat roastings (I'm more familiar with the first four than the last four). Truth is, there are some many AMAZING white wines out there that should be at least considered by reforming red wine racists. Compound that sentiment when one considers food. Many of the world's white wines offer reasonable alcohol, subtle fruit, and zipping acidity that heightens the flavors of nearly any cuisine:

- Crisp, minerally whites like Muscadet (region name and grape name), Sancerre (region name, grape is Sauvignon Blanc), and Albariño (grape name) will give ice cold beer a serious run for its money when set up with a plate of oysters on the half-shell and some steamed peel-n-eats.

- Beautifully aromatic, insanely acidic Rieslings (grape) work with tons of different foods. Plus, the German examples (especially bottles marked Spätlese or Auslese) often have a bit of sweetness to them. Nothing- and I mean nothing- goes better with spicy food. Hot wings and wine? You damn skippy!

- Gewürztraminer, Torrontés, and Viognier (all grape names) bring some serious sniffin' firepower to the jamboree. These will kick a red wine racist's thought of "what white wine smells and tastes like" on its racist ass.

Hell, even Chardonnay works its way into the game. France kicks out some killer stuff, and the Chablis (add to that oyster list) and other white Burgundies not only destroy a Chardonnay prejudice, but they can also empty a bank account quickly. There's a reason why these wines can be so expensive: because they're the shit. Oh, and some Meursault will pair with that steak just fine.

Let me put it this way: when my friends in high places decide to pull the wine equivalent of "making it rain" by emptying their cellars for guests, the best stuff coming out is almost always top-end white Burgs and German Rieslings. And they've drank it all.

The ugly truth is that racism is widespread. It is ignorant. Racism is illogical. I don't know if it will ever go away, and that's very sad to me. I hope people can someday see beyond historic differences and skin color.

But red wine racism is easily defeated, if these misguided folks will be willing to try something new and look past the color of the grape's skin.

It won't change the world, but it might be the first step towards vinous peace & love.

blog comments powered by Disqus