The recent discussion on wine lists continues with Eric Asimov at the New York Times positing “Should a wine list educate or merely flatter you?”. The food in restaurants generally follow the underlying concept or theme of the restaurant and most of us understand that going in. But should the wine list follow the same pattern in staying true to concept? Should a Greek restaurant only serve Greek wine, or should their wine list offer some safer, household wines that anyone can retreat to?
The problem, and beauty, with wine is that there are hundreds and thousands of choices and every one, even if they are made from the same varietal in the same general region, is different. So to the vast majority of us, wine lists are pretty incomprehensible, often made up of wines that we’ve never heard of, never mind tasted. Some wine lists will offer clues as to the region, some might list varietals, but others, as W. Blake Gray pointed out really are nothing more than price lists. On a list like Sotto’s, the names might as well say “blah, blah, blah” for all that most people will understand.
These kind of wine lists are either lazy or arrogant. If wine bloggers, who are in the top 0.1% of wine drinkers in the USA, don’t recognize any of the wines, don’t feel comfortable ordering wine there’s no hope for the regular diner. Instead they will grouch at the prices and order a beer or a coke. As Eric Asimov notes, this leads to a fear of wine.
So how do we remove that fear and educate would be wine drinkers?
More flowery words won’t help. Instead we need to look at a wine from the inside out. If we can identify the dominant features of wines and show how those characteristics match the dish in front of me we can begin the education. If we can take a list and determine a subset of wines that will lead to a more pleasurable experience then diners will have the confidence to order a suitable wine at their price point knowing that they have selected a winner.
This “inside out” approach is what ZiNG! is all about. By characterizing wines based on their acidity, viscosity, fruitiness, sweetness, alcohol and tannin levels then we have the basis for food and wine pairing. It doesn’t matter if it is a well known label or an obscure one, if those elements are aligned with the dominant elements in your food then there will be a match and if they don’t align there is literally a bad taste in your mouth.
ZiNG! takes away the fear, the fear of making the wrong choice, the fear of spending too much money on the wrong choice, the fear of missing out on a good choice.