Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pink, sparkly wine and rose colored glasses

Something wonderful happened last night at our February Networking, Women and Wine event. We lept beyond the whole "I'm Jane and I am a sales rep." dialogue and went headlong into a "here's who I really am, and here's what I hope to learn as I connect with all of you women!"

The pink prosecco was the first giveaway that this wouldn't be just an ordinary Wednesday. Bubbling around the rim, it served as the rose colored lenses we intended to see everything through. There were no borders or judgements. Our theme of learning to love ourself was in every discussion, and as each person shared a struggle or idea, the rest of the group offered insights and solutions that were honest, experience based and encouraging.

Wedged between the French Pinot Noir and the Argentinian Malbec (both were phenomenally tasty and complex and sold for around $16!) we drifted away from the idea of going to an event to GET something and landed securely on the shores of GIVING. I would dare say that as we all departed, we felt more empowered, more balanced and certainly more freer to build our businesses and careers with confidence and imagination, all because we connected on a very authentic level.

When Carmen and I first threw out our intention for 2010 to be a year of balance and to nurture the noble traits of women we hoped it would touch each women in a very personal way. Last night was the expression of those hopes. All who attended and ventured into our realm of safe networking and wine education gained new tools for life, and left behind only the stain of lipstick on the rim of our glasses.

Join us for our March meeting to continue the healing, friendship and celebration!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wine Comparisons that Teach You The Facts

Many of you ask about the ability to taste the difference between wine of various prices. You tell me you really can't tell the difference at all for many if not all of your wine purchases. Specifically your questions lean towards the difference between a $15 bottle of wine and say, a $30 bottle of wine. (What you're not telling me is that you haven't tried an $80 and don't want to if a $15 difference can't be measured.)
As you become more educated about the wine making process and the ability to discern taste, tannins and flavors, it's only natural to get excited about tasting a more expensive bottle and feeling a little note of exhilaration in the whole exotic process. Not finding a huge difference is either a letdown or a confirmation that the whole business is designed to fool you; that juice is juice. "I really can't tell the difference! Why should I pay more?"

I confess. I'm a bargain shopper. I love sales, and I simply cannot purchase an item unless the tag clearly states, "compare at:" with the next line reading, "our price..." I find it exciting to buy a BCBG sweatshirt that retails for $95 and rings up for me at $11.50. If I can buy it for that then clothes are clothes, and wine is wine. Right? Not necessarily.

Although the wine market is going through changes, and the recent cover of Wine Spectator features the headline that the overall prices of wine are going down, let's deconstruct the question and get tot he heart of your desire to find the difference.

If you become a fan of and read about wine from all sources, you see a pattern emerging. And that is that the price of wine is related to the cost to produce it. Specifically the land is the overriding element of price breakdown. As a wine consumer you have the choice of wines from almost every country in the world, and most regions make some kind of wine for the commercial market.

The other element is the grape itself. Various regions and growing conditions can yield very different flavor profiles and complexity. The grape is literally an infinite source of stimulation and discovery for your taste buds. As we become more familiar with grape varieties, wine makers, climate, blends, etc. end up fooling us and grapes begin to take on their own personality with no hint that one grape tastes like the other.

The third item that may be confusing you is the structure of the wine. Tannins, acidity, and alcohol content all confuse an inexperienced palate. Someone says its a dry wine and you think that means more tannins. Some say sweet and you think that means less alcohol. The list goes on.

Quite literally, the next element: wine marketing, is not designed to make it easy for you. It's designed to capture you and sell wine. Descriptions as well lure you with ratings, words that talk about body, mouth feel, finish and nose. All of these will play a different part in the process but may make you think they're describing a wine of exquisite structure when really it's just a combinations of tastes.

The final issue to consider when tasting wine is you. The beginning of the day is a better time to taste than evening. I'm not advocating you pop open the cork on a malbec to go with your cereal, but your palate is more discerning in the a.m. Also, if you're tasting it alone or with food, or even with a set of other wines, each will take on hugely different characteristics. You can almost obliterate a wine if you are matching food and wine incongruently. You can create a feeling in your mouth where tannins are indiscernible or acids are too pronounced. Tasting an expensive wine and a cheap wine incorrectly can render each bad or equally good.

Here's what you need to do when tasting wine so this confusion does not make you return to your beer and pretzels and say goodbye to the fruit of the vine forever.

Take the time to find out how to categorize and measure all the elements of wine when tasting it. Make sure you know how to serve the wine, taste the wine, pair the wine and understand the wine. You can only compare when other elements are controlled and/or equal.

When you go wine tasting, ask the distributor or proprietor to help you find the differences in the wine and explain that you want to know the difference between fine wines and not so fine wines. They can give you tips about making sure you give the wine a chance in your mouth with the proper tasting techniques. Sipping is a misnomer. If you're going to taste the wine, get a good amount in your mouth and make sure it touches all surfaces in your mouth. Breathe in a little while shifting the wine around your tongue and palate so your sense of smell can go to work giving your brain more signals.

Understand that price is not the ultimate comparison. The skill of wine making is a matter of dozens of different elements. Ask the wine maker about those elements so you can isolate the element of taste from one bottle to another. If your budget allows for a wine that is below $15, you can still ask for and find a wine that has superior qualities. In fact you may be able to spend much less than $15. However, if you're looking for something to wow the crowds and want to know about how to compare them, don't make it about price. Wines that range from $9 to $40 can taste similar, but only when choosing from wines in a scattered, pick-me kind of way. You can make educated choices.

Next, attend wine tastings and record your preferences. You may not find a pattern emerging but you will begin to train your brain to learn, in progression, about wine. In time you will be able to experience the absolute thrill of tasting a wine that takes on different characteristics while it's in your mouth and long after. You'll enjoy the absolutely huge difference in texture, and tastes. Soon when you can and do get the opportunity to taste something worthy of (and I do say worthy, not just priced) a hefty price tag, you can count it as one of the great experiences of being human!

Last but not least, and at the very least, drink if you enjoy and do it because you like what you're drinking. If you feel pressured by someone to keep inching up the cost of your bottles as a signal that you're a seasoned wine drinker, tell them to jump off a gnarly grapevine and point them to various articles on the web about wine rating. It's not a contest to see who can spend the most. It's about the whole, complex, exciting, creative and ever changing world of wine. A hobby that is fun alone and with others.

Happy tasting!

If you feel like everyone wants a little piece of you, read on.

It's true. Those little candy hearts know the real story. They have short, sweet, concise messages that get misunderstood by young and old alike.

Think about 4th grade: You plop the candy in an envelope, pass it back to the row behind you and soon Billy Smith is reading -YOU'RE CUTE!- and you're toast!

Seems today it's even harder to say the right things to the right people. Valentine's or not, we're all over stimulated and under motivated and giving "love" just feels like one more chore.

You are overwhelmed because you cannot find within yourself the wellspring of more to give because you are empty. You have not refilled the vessel because, in reality you do not no how to truly care for yourself. Carl Jung said, "The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely." In that is all the western truth of our gender. We have been trained to see ourselves as broken and un-whole. We have found fault in all our failures instead of experience. We have found ugliness in our wrinkles instead of wisdom. And we have found weakness in our tears instead of compassion.

On February 10th, we will explore these subjects, and share some new ideas with you that you can explore, to help increase your ability to love yourself. In essence we will help you fill your own vessel in a balanced, loving and nurturing way. As Mae West said so blatantly, "I don't like myself, I'm crazy about myself!"

Well, maybe there's a place in-between for all of us noble women.