What is it about wine?

What is it about wine that keeps you coming back?

I often ask people about their "aha" moment, when they realized how good wine can be. There might be a singular moment that sticks in your mind, or a number of them. Over the past couple weeks, I have been reminded of what keeps me coming back.

At one of our wine tasting events, I had introduced a number of "high altitude" wines. I wrote about this last week. Well, one of the wines was from the side of Mount Etna, in Italy. Usually, I do some research on the wines ahead of time, if I am not familiar with that particular growing region. I neglected to do my research on this wine, so assumed it would be something like a Nero d'Avola (a full bodied red wine that might be compared to Syrah). When I opened up the bottle, a lightly pigment wine pour from the bottle, and I was at a loss to explain what grapes my tasters were experiencing.

As it turns out, this was a blend of two grape varieties: Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio. The wine was light with tannins, and appeared to be somewhere between a Pinot Noir and Barolo, or Barbaresco, in color (ruby red). It had some earthiness to it, but lots of cherry and red flowers. I found it very elegant, and most of surprising. It was not what I expected.

Last night, I had a bottle of Regnie. In the past, I had not been much of a fan of Beaujolais wines, but had rediscovered them with some of the more recent vintages of Morgon, and Moulin-a-Vent (Beajolais-village wines). I plan on writing an article about the wines of Beajolais in the future, but for now, the basics. Beaujolais is made from the Gamay grape. There are different levels of quality (just as in the rest of the Burgundy region in France). Most people think of Beaujolais Nouveau, when discussing this region, but if that is all you have tried, then you are missing some interesting wines. The village wines of Beaujolais, make for a great pairing with sausages. And, now that the weather is a bit warmer, the barbecue is out, and grilled sausages are an available dinner choice. The pairing of Regnie with sausages, is one of those majical moments when it all comes together.

Today, I received an e-mail, from a follower of this blog. He had found some old bottles of wine, with the labels intact, but knew nothing about the wine. He asked for my help. Unfortunately, I didn't have any answers about his mystery "Arrowhead Sparkling Burgundy" bottle, but it did start me researching, and now I am very curious about these old bottles. The history of wine in Southern California is extensive, and this bottle appears to be pre-prohibition.

Mystery wine photo
So back to my original question..."what is it about wine that keeps you coming back?" For me, it is surprise. I love finding new wines, and every year I get to experience a new vintage. It's a constant "reinvention" every year. I love learning about wine regions and history. I love the smell of the wine in the glass. Matter of fact, I think my favorite wines stay in the glass longer, as I continue to swirl and smell, and enjoy how the wine changes as it is exposed to the air. When I am in a restaurant, I love the surprise find on the wine menu. It's like a treasure hunt. That little "gem" that no one else has noticed. I like the excitement those finds generate. I like the experience of trying new wines and varieties, that help build the personal "wine database" that is stored in my head. I like wines that are interesting, and offer me a chance to find foods to pair with them.

As for that "aha" moment. For me, it was a 1978 Heitz Marthas Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. It was my final days as a member of the Nestle family, and I was out to dinner with some of my sales people at the Stanford Court Hotel, on Nob Hill in San Francisco. We had order the specialty item: Smoked Prime Rib, at Fournou's Oven. The pairing was classic. I can still recall the taste, and the moment I thought, "wow, I never knew wine could be this good".

What keeps you coming back?


  1. Oooh... Mt. Etna, known for being an insane place to produce wines and considered as Italy's most exciting wine region, has winemakers who match the quality of their wines with the the volcano's extremes. To enjoy a bottle of Beaujolais with my beloved on a visit to Mt. Etna would be a great delight! B)

    Corey Glenn

  2. Me too, I love discovering new wines and I love the feeling when I taste different wines. I regularly get my wines online from The Wine Bunker they have a wide collections and that is awesome for me.