Things Are Simple, Except When They're Not
I was having dinner with my parents Wednesday night and we were talking about wine (big surprise), when my dad said, "There are only two things you need to know about wine – you either like it or you don't." He was quoting someone else he had heard on the radio, not necessarily expounding on his own belief, but generally if you're neither working in the wine industry nor a serious student of the game that simple philosophy holds true. The reason we're supposed to be drinking is because the thing we're actually imbibing tastes good or makes us happy. There are times when I'll go off on a tangent about how we're all over-analyzing this whole booze craze and we need to get back to just drinking the damn stuff (actually, I think every booze writer at some point has written that exact same article). However, there are other moments when I'll preach education and analysis to further our enjoyment of alcohol, believing that knowing something about whisky actually makes it taste better. So which is it? You can't have it both ways, can you? The truth is it's both. Like everything good in life, drinking requires balance. You shouldn't drink too much, but you shouldn't not drink either (at least in my opinion!). You shouldn't eat too much, but you have to eat something. You shouldn't work too much, but you can't be a lazy sack of shit either.
If I pour someone a glass of peated whisky and they say, "Whoa....I'm not sure if I like that," is that really the end of the conversation? What if I were to continue on with a brief explanation of why the distillers on Islay used peat, about how there are no trees on the island therefore no wood to burn the malting fires, and that this distinct flavor is a tradition that originated out of necessity – would that make things more interesting? Usually it helps to know about why something tastes the way it does. I wouldn't pick up a grasshopper off the ground and eat it, but I would be open to eating a chapulin taco in Oaxaca because it's a regional speciality of Mexico. I might not like it, but I would enjoy the experience if it were put into proper context.
I think people forget that an experience can still be enjoyable even if it's something we don't want to repeat. For me personally, life is about exploration and appreciation. I never buy the same bottle of wine or whisky twice because my satisfaction in drinking comes from new and exciting adventures. I'm more than happy to drink a bottle of wine I don't like if it at least helps me understand something about wine overall. For some people, however, getting a bottle of wine or whisky they don't like is the worst thing possible and I understand that. For some people, drinking is just something you do after work for fun (or maybe during work – who am I to judge?). In my opinion, however, we should have some drinking experiences where we let loose and throw caution to the wind. To balance those out we should sometimes pay attention to different styles of wine and whisky to help us further appreciate what it is we like or don't like about those particular selections.
Balance. Yin and Yang. Sometimes fun, sometimes educational. In my opinion, those are the only two things you need to know about wine.