Maybe it’s a Stephen Stills thing. You know the song, right? “If you can’t be with the wine you love honey, love the wine you’re with…love the wine you’re with.” That is how that song goes, isn’t it? Well, it should.
Keep that song in the front of your mind as you head out on your epic wine tasting adventures (or a shopping adventure in your local liquor wonder-mart) as a reminder that all wines, regions, dirt and winemaking styles were not created equally when it comes to satisfying your pallet. You’re a Pinot Noir girl and you want to tour Italy’s famous wine regions? Put your passion for Pinot on the shelf. No matter what they say, Pinot Noir was not born Italian. Or, you decide to head up to Oregon and the not-as-famous-as-it-should-be Willamette Valley. Don’t go looking for Zinfandel or Chardonnay. Oregon is where to satisfy your lust for Pinot.
Just like food, get your wine from the places that do it best. That’s always good advice. You wouldn’t travel to Indonesia to get a slice of New York pizza, would you? We’ll discuss label reading later to get you to be able to spot the best of the best, but until then, here is a brief list of the places to get the best wine and what grapes do best there. Yes, wine is produced everywhere, and certain places are not mentioned, but have some faith. These quick tips will help you avoid drinking disappointment.
California: Napa Valley is arguably the best in the world at producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay (just ask everyone but the French). A great wine is not hard to find here. And, just when you’ve found your favorite, just head down the street a block or so to find your next favorite. Just a bit of a drive west, Sonoma sports the world’s best Zinfandel and, with Carneros, it’s neighbor between the two valleys, cranks out some of the best Pinot Noir to be found anywhere.
Oregon: Thinking Pacific Northwest, the relatively new to the ancient race Willamette Valley produces Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris with amazing success. Then, just head up north a bit to Washington to sample some of their best Merlot, Chardonnay and Riesling.
Argentina: Sporting a huge wine growing region and Mediterranean climate, wine makers in Argentina create many beautiful wines, but the Malbec production from the Mendoza region is their best and most famous. Pair a bottle with some of the best beef on the planet and you may just decide to relocate to Buenos Aires.
Spain: The Spanish love their wines. They are the third largest producer of wine, after all, and some estimates have them growing over 500 different grapes. Here, full body red wines from Tempranillo and Garnacha are the best. Quality can sometimes vary wildly with these grapes, so if you find yourself with a less than perfect Rioja, just remember what the Spanish are also famous for; Sangria.
France: Maybe the best and most famous wine producers (and consumers) in the world, the French have worked hard to perfect their art of winemaking. Here, Bordeaux and Burgundy are king, and queen. Although growing hundreds of different grapes, Bordeaux is known for Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends, as well as the relatives and clones of such, like Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. Burgundy, on the other end of the country and spectrum, specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Italy: Strangely, few people actually realize that it is Italy, not France, that produces the most wine in the world. And they drink a lot of it, too. Sangiovese and all of her variations and clones thrive in Tuscany, from the larger than life Chianti to the smaller and incredible Brunello from Montalcino. Up north is where Nebbiolo and Pinot Gris rule. Whatever you choose in Italian wines, remember that wine in Italy is a lifestyle that started thousands of years ago.
Germany: Not too many people associate the Germans with wine, but if your tastes trend toward the sweeter wines and dessert wines, then a Riesling from along the Rhine River simply cannot be beat. Now, for our friends in Colorado, some wine producers out on the Western Slope in Palisades are doing a nice job with these types of wines as well. If you haven’t tried yet, maybe you should.
The rest of the New World: There are so many more regions sporting some outstanding wines. South African Port, Chilean Cabernet, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Australian Shiraz, all of them sport some wonderful selections, as long as you generally stick with what they do best.
So, remember, if you sometimes feel overwhelmed with choices and the pressures mount for you to taste a good wine in a pinch, simply look around, see where you are and pick something based on what the winemakers in the region do best.
And, when your wine tour is done, just remember what Mr. Stills said: “Don’t be angry – don’t be sad. Don’t sit crying over good times you’ve had.” Just head to your favorite wine shop, grab a bottle of your favorite and sip your way to happiness. Love the wine you’re with.