Wine represents different things to different people. In a wine store, we learn a lot about what motivates people to buy certain wines. My job, as I see it, is to try my best to make you happy with your purchase, no matter your taste or motive in buying it.
But I also have a mission to try to get our customers to stretch out a bit, to experience wines they wouldn't normally try in ways they wouldn't normally ponder. The reason is simple: variety is not only the spice of life, it is an antidote to boredom. Drinking the same thing over and over is as dull to me as hearing the same joke over and over. Pretty soon you lose interest, not because the wine or joke wasn't good to begin with, but because you simply got tired of it. What kind of businessman would I be if I let my customers get tired of my products? That's why it's in both our interests to try new things, discover new tastes and explore new ways of enjoying wine.
Nature gives us a key to help us with wine appreciation. As gardeners know all too well, there are peak seasons for fruits and vegetables--and they are not found in the supermarket, but in the taste of fresh-picked produce at the time of perfect ripeness. Cucumbers and lettuces are sweeter, tomatoes burst with flavor, melons and strawberries--which have lost all their flavor in grocery store bins--are intensely flavored once again when they are plucked from the ground or the vine or the tree.
I couldn't help think of this last Saturday when Samantha Dugan staged a white wine tasting I wish all of you could have attended. The theme was "Sauvignon Blancs of the Loire Valley." The lineup included brilliant wines from well known and not-so-well-known Sauvignon Blanc regions two hours southwest of Paris: Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Menetou Salon, Quincy and Valencay, and I was surprised at how good, and varied, these crisp, minerally wines were from the 2011 and 2012 vintages. Samantha had included several of our customers' favorite producers like Sylvain Bailly, Didier Dagueneau, Regis Minet, Vieux Pruniers and Henry Pelle--but I was astonished at how good her newer selections were from Fouassier, Le Claux Delorme and Montintin.
There is, of course, another explanation why these wines tasted so good, and it relates to the concept of seasonality. It's simply this: I typically lose interest in these wines in the fall and winter when my tastes crave heavier white and red wines. Now that the signs of spring are all around us, these wines seem so fresh-tasting and right. It's like discovering you like fresh fruit all over again when you bite into a just-picked ripe peach, for example. In the spring you put away your winter sweaters and you put aside your winter wines. The season tells you it is time to renew acquaintances with some old friends you discover you dearly missed. And now you know why they were missed...it wasn't the right time before, and now it is.
The same thing happens when the 2012 roses are wheeled in our back door and just as quickly move out our front door. Each year more and more of our customers are ready for spring and summer wines when they arrive. They may still love their heavy reds, but they're not eating rich stews and roasts in the summer, so they gravitate toward more seasonally inviting wines. And if they are barbecuing steaks on the grill, they are reaching for their lower alcohol reds from Chinon and Bourgeuil and Beaujolais, perhaps with a light chill on them so they are cellar-cool to the tongue.
Last night a young friend confided she preferred Sauvignon Blancs with an oaky taste--a style more in line with the prestige chateaux of Bordeaux than the vignerons of the Loire. I don't want to dicourage her from drinking what makes her happy, but I predict there will come a day--maybe not this year, or even five years from now--when the heavier, oakier whites she prefers now will lose interest for her.
And that will, in all likelihood, be in the spring.