Wine on Starchefs

Wine Tips from Featured Sommelier Jenny Benzie, CWE
By Jim Clarke

In baseball, they say that every year has a new season, and the same is true in every vineyard around the world. Each season every team fares differently, trades players, has good streaks and slumps…likewise in wine, each region, vineyard, and producer goes through their own ups and downs.

It helps to think of it this way if you find wine to be an overwhelming or mystifying subject. Believe me, if you can keep track of what’s happening in baseball in just a few minutes each day, there’s no reason you can’t do the same in wine.

Say you pick up the sports section to catch up on last nights’ games and scores – grab a Wine Spectator and get the latest results. Prefer to watch your sports news on SportsCenter? Tune into Andrea Immer’s five-minute wine spot on the Fine Living Network. Like the All-Star game? Take yourself out to a wine fair.

Whatever medium you prefer, by picking up as little each day you’ll begin to catch up with wine as a whole: who the big players are, where they came from and learned winemaking, and who else plays on their team. Maybe they’ve been “traded,” a few times, working at different wineries, or played on an international team before settling into Napa Valley life. There are the big hitters, and more modest players who nonetheless maintain a high RBI. What’s their batting average? Sometimes even the best players strike out, and sometimes they hit a home run. As you become a fan, you may find you’ve accumulated plenty of trivia about your favorite team to impress your friends with at the wine bar at night.

Wine, like baseball, is available to everyone. Whether you’re on a budget and prefer to sit in the bleachers or can splash out for season tickets on first base line, there are plenty of ways to get the most out of your experience. And there are calls and rules to dispute and argue over: wooden bats or aluminum? What about replacing corks with Stelvin screwcaps? And the recent brouhaha about steroid on the ballfield sounds a lot like genetically modified grapes to me.

One day at a time, you find you build up a knowledge and appreciation of the game of wine: who had a good season, who has been traded, and what rising stars are coming up from the farm leagues. And when your favorite team has a winning year, you can put away a case or two and relive their glory days in the years to come.


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    Published: February 2006