Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mixed Cases, Take 2

Asimov's at it again over at the Pour, with two more mixed cases to follow up on his popular and controversial "Wine School." (photo by Ian Britton from

If you've not been following the story so far, Asimov decided to have two NYC wine merchants put together mixed cases of wine so that he could expand his knowledge and taste things he might not otherwise taste. People were critical of the cost, the selection, and the fact they couldn't find the exact same wines to drink. There was also indignation at the fact that there was only one US wine among the 24 bottles (bad news: the new cases have only one US wine, too, the 2001 Edmund St. Johns Syrah from El Dorado County)

But the real purpose of Asimov's "Wine School" is to get US drinkers to drink widely and inexpensively, to have fun, and to learn what you like while doing so. All of us need to be reminded that this is what the love of wine is all about.

His second mixed cases build on the wines that he liked from his first--which is how it's supposed to be. They have even more Loire wines which Asimov really enjoyed (including a 2002 Baumard Savennieres that I've got waiting in my cellar and picked up at Costco), the Cortijo III Rioja Tinto (I reviewed their rose recently), the La Roquette Chateauneuf-du-Pape (always a favorite and a steal at slightly over $20) and some nice Italian selections. It's worth clicking over there on the link above to see what's what and get inspired to have your favorite merchant mix you your own case of wines.

So, want to go back to school this summer? Never ordered a case of wine before, never mind a mixed case? If you've never done this before, here's what to do. First, I'd recommend finding an independent wine retailer rather than going to a huge wine store chain. Ask around on Chowhound's Wine Board if you don't know a good store in your area--someone there surely does. The ten most recent posts have recommendations for the best wine stores between Buffalo and Erie, for instance. Then:

If you are a complete newbie, just have them mix 5 whites, 5 reds, 1 rose, and 1 sparkling wine. Tell them how much total you want to spend. Leave with your case. Enjoy. Keep notes on what you liked and didn't for your next mixed case. Repeat when the shelf gets bare.

If you know what you like, tell the merchant "I like sauvignon blanc, lightly oaked chardonnay, syrah, and pinot. I want to drink more European/South American/New World/Old World/California/Oregon/Washington/New York wines (circle appropriate choices)." Tell them how much you want to spend on the whole case. Leave with your case. Enjoy. Keep notes on what you liked and didn't for your next mixed case. Repeat when the shelf gets bare.

Now that readers are a bit calmer over at The Pour, it is clear that what is attractive about the mixed-case strategy is that it takes some of the stress out of the experience of trying new wines. You get a dozen wines. You won't like them all. But you may discover that Loire whites are your thing, or that you love malbec. That knowledge--which will pay off 1o-fold over the rest of your life--is worth the $13 you spent on the pinot grigio you didn't like and so served as an aperitif with nachos to unsuspecting houseguests on Saturday night.

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