It wasn't that long ago that buying a bottle of wine was risky business. The dissimination of important quality and tasting information was held by a few professionals. The knowledge, understanding, experience (what ever you want to call it) was concentrated in geographic areas where people drank a lot of wine (California and New York) and in a few wine journals which were not widely available.
In the mid-1980's Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Marvin Shanken's Wine Spectator began to get a strong foothold. Robert Parker (wine geek first, publisher second) reviews migrated from newsletters to monthly magazines while Shanken (publisher first, wine snob second) started with the large-format glossy magazine. With an expanding middle class the 80's was a prime time to become knowledgeable about wine.
Wine sales have benefitted from the proliferation of knowledge via the internet and sites dedicated to the product. It is this exhange of information which has made the purchase of wine less of a risky business. In fact, I would contend that the dissimination of knowledge has helped improve the quality of the product while reducing the price to the consumer.
I started enjoying wine when I lived in San Diego in the 1980s first drinking "box wine" and then graduating to something less embarrasing. In fact, it was Robert Mondavi and his innovative sales and marketing that lured me into what is called "premium" wine: and I am thankful most every day. The high profile products of Mondavi created a standard to which other producers took aim.
Which brings me (finally) to my primary point: there is alot of good wine out there. It has been over a year since I had a bad bottle of wine. And, in this instance it was an Italian red that a local wine shop gifted me on the condition that I provide him my opinion of the product. The wine was awful - thin, one-dimensional and tannic. But, it was free after all.
Since there is so much good (great) wine out there what wine should a person drink?
- Drink what you like. If YOU like it: it is good wine. Don't worry about what other people think about your selection.
- Expand your tastes outward. If you like whites, then try expanding your taste in other directions. Try varietals you've not tried before. Try wines from regions you've not tried before.
- Try wine from small local wineries. One downside of the market is that the big guys get all of the shelf space - if we (as wine consumers) want a wide variety of products, then it is our duty to ensure the small guys get some sales.