Thursday, April 12, 2007

What Style of Wine Consumer Are You?

Overjoyed to be on vacation and have access to high-speed internet for the first time in a week, I caught up on my blog reading and browsed through Wednesday's New York Times--always a high point for me, since it has Eric Asimov's wine column. I admire and respect what Asimov has to say about wine, and what he is doing to broaden the knowledge of wine in the US.

This week, Mr. Asimov had two different wine shops put together mixed cases of 12 wines, with a budgetary limit of $250, that are to be drunk with food. The purpose? To learn more about wine. You can read the lists over at his blog The Pour if you don't have a subscription to the NYT, where (if you do have a subscription) you can read the whole story "To Study Wine, Buy and Drink." At The Pour you can also read the 40+ comments that this buying strategy has engendered. By the time you read this, it may be 50+. In the comments section, fans applaud the mixed case as a brilliant, innovative strategy for learning about wine. Critics deplore the preponderance of French wine, and wonder why there aren't more US labels in the boxes that Chambers and Sherry-Lehmann put together for Mr. Asimov. Some urge new wine enthusiasts to set the budgetary bar lower, say at $150 per case, to avoid bitterness and recrimination when they discover they don't like Grenache. And through what magical rites do you find these wines, wonder some, without having a trusted retailer fill a box for you and without falling back on the dreaded 100-point Ratings?

I, on the other hand, wonder what the fuss is all about, since this is exactly how I buy and drink wine on a monthly basis. 12 interesting, unusual bottles for $250 total. Hey, it's good wine for --mostly--under $20! Where have I seen a blog like that? And as for how to find these treasures, do the readers of Asimov's column read any wine blogs at all--except maybe The Pour? If you want a magical rite, here it is: Go to my side bar. Say "hocus pocus." Click on one or more of the links under Wine Blogs Worth Visiting. Presto. Wine recommendations you can count on!

I started thinking that maybe buying a the mixed case is really an uncommon way to buy wine in the US. Perhaps I was warped from years of living in the UK, where the mixed case is something every merchant not only offers, but also advertises. (like in the advert from the UK's Majestic Wine Warehouse at the top of the post). They even put together mixed cases on themes like "Southern French Finds" and "Unheralded Whites" and so forth. You pop in to a store or order on line and presto, 12 new wines for you to try. How do you think everyday wine culture takes root and flourishes, folks? From what I see in Europe, it's seldom the result of peddling expensive chardonnay and cult cabernets in season and out. Variety is the spice of life! Drink widely. Try carignane!

Then again, maybe my love of the mixed case says something about me as a wine consumer. True confession time: I have a low, low boredom threshold. Picture someone you know with the lowest boredom threshold imaginable and then lower their boredom threshold by the power of 10. That's me. I would no sooner drink bottle after bottle of pinot noir (much as I love it) as I would bottle after bottle of wine made by one producer. But there are folks out there who are just the opposite. There are folks who buy wines by the case from a single maker, collect verticals of their favorite wines, and seek to become expert in specific regions, varietals, or producers. If I am a member of the Low Boredom Brigade, then they are definitely marching to the beat of the Pursuit of Expertise Squad. And more power to them. That's why the blogosphere is such an unbelievable resource for all of us.

What kind of wine consumer are you? Low Boredom Brigade? Pursuit of Expertise Squad member in training? A bit of both? Leave a comment and 'fess up about how you buy, drink, and enjoy your vino. Yes, you can even confess that you don't drink wine with food if you want. Your secret is safe with us.

9 comments:

winehiker said...

Obviously no mixed feelings here! :)

Even though I have my favorites, I go through phases all the time (zin today, cab tomorrow, etc.), and often have my eye open for something different and worth trying. And hey - case discounts are where it's at.

I like the angle of a wine merchant preparing a case for a consumer, but with my (too dangerous) level of wine knowledge, I wouldn't want to be too disappointed, either. And that's precisely why the vinosphere (a.k.a. bloggers' wine picks) works for me - your reviews factor in to my mixed case.

Catie said...

Low boredom threshold. Gimme a mixed case!

Dr. Debs said...

Hi Russ and Catie. I couldn't agree more, Russ, that the bloggers give me so many heads up for wines that I've seen but not dared to try--like Sonadora steering me to the Nora Albarino when I was getting started on Spanish wines. Have you two been over to the Pour? It's like a monster truck rally in the comments section--people are really hot under the collar on this issue! And so upset that they can't find exactly the wines in Asimov's cases. Which misses the point, IMHO, which is to buy a mixed case--any mixed case--and start trying the wines. But I guess that's where Catie's and my low boredom thresholds come in handy!

Sonadora said...

I'm often convinced I have some attention disorder. And I'm really feeling both cellar and wine store fatigue these days. If I'm buying wine I haven't tasted, I like to keep the budget low and around me I have pretty much exhausted the supply of $10-$15 wines. So while I have my favorites, I'll try anything once, I love to get into new things. (My palate is hurting today after a full day of tasting!)

Dr. Debs said...

Sonadora, I don't think you have a disorder--just look at the rest of us who confess to the same thing! I know the cellar/shop fatigue phenomenon well, and am perhaps the only person I know who will drive an hour and back on a weekend to try a new wine shop. When you get settled into your new house and over the mortgage shop, start roadtripping. And your palate fatigue today will fade and leave you with a list of new stuff you want to get to know better.

David said...

another good post! I'm definitely a "buy a mixed case" consumer. It's been some time since I've bought a single bottle of wine, seems like a waste when I get a 15% mixed case discount at my local shop. And last time I was in there to get another case, the manager seemed to recall I had been in there the previous weekend for a case, and said it would be 20% off this time! Now, I hadn't gone through the case in the week, but just needed a couple particular bottles and figured I might as well stock up while I was there!

Dr. Debs said...

Wow, great wine store. Kind of like getting a frequent flyer discount--but with wine!! I like to think of my mixed cases as a kind of "wine bank account." No rushing out to find a bottle at the last minute to take to a friends house, no worrying do I have a wine to go with that. It makes like so much simpler to have 12 bottles sitting there, just waiting for you to open and explore. And I find friends coming to dinner enjoy it, too. I often open a wine with the words, "I have no idea what this wine is like but let's try it."

Ken M. said...

I like to mix it up with different reds (zin, pinot noir, cab, shiraz, jumilla) and almost always buy a mixed case...though sometimes I do throw in a few doubles of my long term favorites.

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome, Ken. A reds fan, huh? I think that you've outlined the perfect, no-boredom strategy for having one bottle ready to drink and one bottle in reserve "just in case."