Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Quick Thought on Imported Wine

I wanted to share a thought about imported wine that's been bothering me lately. I have had many people remark to me that during their trip to Italy/France/Spain that "all the wine we had was good!" Often they will emphasize that even the inexpensive house wine at the restaurants was good wine. The implication (and in some cases people have stated outright) is that the imported wine here in the U.S. is not as good as what the people in these other countries drink themselves.

For imported wine you get at any grocery store or chain restaurant, this is probably right. That stuff is just mass-marketed stuff intended for export. Otherwise this notion is false. In fact the truth is quite the opposite. Importers who take their craft seriously seek out the very best wine to import in the U.S. and leave the rest behind. For good restaurants and specialty wine shops, the imported wine is probably on average superior to what's found in these countries as a whole.

Also, I suspect that a lot of this wine that is reported as great wouldn't be as great in other contexts. I've written before that a big part of wine is the experience. If you are on vacation in Florence in a nice cafe, you are going to expect the wine to be good, and lo and behold it is. In a random wine tasting you do not know what to expect and your judgment is probably more accurate.

For example, if you've ever been to Paris and eaten at the numerous Bistros you probably had some of their house red and thought it was great. What you were drinking was likely Beaujolais wine. Well, I can tell you from experience that I love Beaujolais wine but it is a very hard sell here in the U.S. Americans tend to prefer fuller bodied reds. But I bet in that Parisian Bistro that light bodied red tasted great.

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