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20 Nov 2021 | Randy Kemner

CURIOSITY IS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES

In my experience, most people are creatures of habit, appearing to be rather timid when it comes to new foods and beverages. My brother-in-law was so worried he wouldn't like Swedish food when he landed there, he was relieved to find a McDonald's.

Some people who buy wine fit into this category, but most of the customers we meet in our store do not.  In fact, they love to explore and engage in the vast variety wine offers.  They are the foragers, the exploreres, the tasters, the vinous versions of restaurant grazers.  They are all about experience and discovery.

Before Covid, we used to host at least three wine tastings per week at The Wine Country.  Attendees ranged from novices to experienced tasters, and everyone sampled interesting wines they’d never experienced before, and they learned something along the way. 

I’d say the connecting tissue between all of them—and all of us who work at The Wine Country—is our collective curiosity:  the curiosity about new aromas and tastes, wines we’ve never sampled, wines from cultures we want to know more about, and the curiosity to simply expand one’s appreciation of wine.

Occasionally I’m asked to pour wine for a fund-raising event.  The dynamics are quite different at public tastings of this sort.  The level of expertise in wine is similarly varied, but unlike a wine store tasting where everyone is there for wine, the main motivation for those at a charity event is supporting the cause.  Therefore, overall wine curiosity isn’t quite as apparent.

For example, at a charity tasting, there are some tasters who will come up to the table—whether we’re pouring Italian or German or Spanish wine—and ask for “a good Merlot” or “your best Chardonnay.”  Most are not interested in trying all, or even a few of the wines at the table, or learning anything new about wine, but only in those wines they are most familiar with. 

That’s how I get declarations like “Red only—I don’t drink white wines,” and its counterpart.  At one fundraiser recently, a woman wasn’t interested in anything on the table unless it was Chardonnay.  God forbid a drop of Pinot Gris or Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc or Soave should touch her lips.  The planets would lose their alignment if she found something new to like.

Those still avoiding south-of-France-style dry rosés continue to astound me, especially in a coastal community like Long Beach where our climate screams for cool, light and crisp, fresh-tasting wines.  Pink-o-phobia, perhaps?  Perhaps they haven’t had the right appetizers with their Cotes de Provence rosés.  It’s true they might not taste good with onion dip and barbecue potato chips, but they’re sure to impress with Mediterranion ingredients like aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), salami and olives.  (Remember, what grows together, goes together.)

 I spoke with a lady at the shop who told me she doesn’t drink white wine anymore, yet all she used to drink was white wine.  Now she likes big red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.  I’ve been hearing this a lot lately.  But this particular woman also told me she’d try white wines again because they are nice with lighter foods and provide refreshment in warmer months.

This is what I love about our customers!  We all have our favorites—hell, I bounce around, settle on something I like, drink more of it for awhile, then search around for something different.

My nephew once complained to his mother when she substituted something different for an old reliable dish at a Thanksgiving dinner.  “Why change it?  It was fine before and you changed it!”

The answer given to my nephew is also one I’d give to someone always drinking the same wine.

“I changed it so you won’t grow tired of it.”

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