How to Seem like you know what you’re talking about
The crisp days of fall are upon us, bringing parties and holiday dinners and for some, the uneasy feeling one ought to know more about wine, ought to be able to buy a decent wine and ought to be able to hold one’s own in conversation with the know-it-all wine connoisseur one always seems to wind up standing next to at these get-togethers.
There are, in fact, a few facts every Oregonian can easily grasp about wine.
* Wine has been produced since around 7,000 BC. It was made to keep medieval monks occupied figuring out new varieties and methods. It was made to preserve the perishable grape crop and to bring joy to the species.
* Oregon has an important wine industry and it is growing. Charles Humble of the Oregon Wine Board tells us, “Over the last decade the industry has roughly quadrupled. In the second half of the decade (since 2005), the industry doubled. There are now about 500 wineries.”
Show-off Bonus Detail: Last year, Oregon’s 850 vineyards produced a record 41,500 tons of wine grapes.
* Oregon’s wine industry is economically important. Mr. Humble says the Oregon Wine Board conducts an economic impact study “about every five years. The last report was done in 2010. At that time, the study found that the impact on the state’s economy was $2.7 billion.”
* The Willamette Valley is a significant wine-growing region. It is important within the United States and it is recognized worldwide.
Show-off Bonus Detail: Experts define every distinct wine-growing region in the United States (and, of course, Oregon) as, AVA, (for “American Viticulture Area.”) Toss around the phrase, “Willamette Valley AVA” with confidence.
* Here in the Willamette Valley we’re best known for our Pinot noir. Our wineries actually produce some of the world’s best Pinot noir.
* Pinot noir is a red wine. Beyond that we won’t discuss “notes” or “lingering flavors” or “temper” or “character.” We’ll mention only that Pinot noir is popular; that suggests that if you’re at all like most other human beings you’ll probably like it.
Bonus Pronunciation Help: You pronounce that, PEE-noh nohre.
* While visiting a winery notice what you enjoy; if it’s not beyond your budget, buy a bottle or two. When you serve or give these bottles as a gift, all you have to say is that you like it.
* Wine snobs should never ruin your pleasure. If you’ve drunk more than one glass of wine in your life, you already know as much as they know, without the messy vocabulary.
* If you’ve drunk more than one glass of wine and prefer one over the other, you’re well on your way. Look at it this way; you already know what food you like. Wine is no different.
* If you find you can’t tell a bit of difference between different wines, that’s okay, too. You might like every wine you drink; you might like none of them.
Bonus Important Fact: People who don’t like any wine at all are the reason other people make Clamato, Mr. PiBB and Nesquick chocolate milk.
* Keep open to new wines. You are the decider. You are the only one you have to please.
For Advanced Study
* You can have fun and learn a bit more this month by participating in the 30th Anniversary of Willamette Valley Wineries’ Wine Country Thanksgiving. It’s a winery tour November 23 – 25 and will include over 150 wineries (some who are rarely open to the public except on holiday weekends). willamettewines.com
* Backroads Wine Tours transports the interested and curious on customized tours of Oregon Wine Country. backroadswinetour.com
* For more expert oenophile (you’ll find this word in the dictionary) advice, visit one of Salem’s local wine stores.
Consider the following; Santiam Wine Company, Papa Di Vino Wine Shop and Bar, Grand Vines and West Salem Wine Store. Roth’s Fresh Markets emphasizes Oregon and Northwest wines as well.