I would love to make this one short and sweet, so let’s see how it goes. I write with this topic in mind because I, myself, am in the very process of cutting the grape varietal of Merlot some slack. Why is this process occurring? Because at a few trivial points during my earliest exposures to wine, when I knew nothing of its history or its cunning allure, I had taken a staunch, yet baseless stance against Merlot. I had tasted a few of them and they all seemed to possess a certain unfavorable (in my opinion) similarity. Today, I believe that similarity was about 97% psychological and the remaining 3% percent would correspond with the fact that Merlot, inevitably, possesses certain common characteristics from whichever region the grapes are obtained. (Merlot, by nature, is not as delicate of a grape as Pinot Noir, for example, but not as dense of a grape as Cabernet Sauvignon). But the one and only point here, while we know we all have done it or still do it, is that picking out one type of wine, be it Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay, etc. and determining, without rationale, that you dislike it in its entirety, is almost guaranteed to detract from your options and be untrue.
There was always the small chance that I could taste a thousand different Merlots from California, France, and South America and dislike every single one of them. There is by no means a law stating I or anyone can convince you to enjoy a single kind of wine you’ve conditioned yourself to reject.
But there is unquestionably a high likelihood that I will.
Chardonnay. I like this example the most because I’ve heard more people say they don’t like Chardonnay over any other type of wine, and because I’ve tasted an unimaginable amount of different interpretations of this wine.
Californian: I’ve had some with the brightest tropical fruit flavors conceivable, such that would convince anyone who thinks every Chardonnay is too dry to reevaluate, some that don’t see one second of wood, preventing it from acquiring that taste of toasted oak, vanilla, or butter. And on the other hand, I’ve had some that were enclosed in oak barrels for close to a year, that undergo a secondary (malolactic) fermentation which extracts the buttery sensation only comparable to movie theater popcorn (the chemical byproduct of malolactic fermentation in wine is called ‘diacetyl’, which is actually found in the butter in movie theater popcorn!). I’ve also had the best of both worlds with California Chardonnays; the epitome of balance, the most desired expression. You’re bound to enjoy one of them.
White Burgundy: Exclusively Chardonnay, made in Burgundy, France. Let’s put it this way; same deal as far as diversity in California. The most prized villages have been graced with the most impeccable land and the vinegrowers and winemakers have an equal respect for said land and each other. The most prized byproducts have balanced oak and fruit while maintaining an undeniable sense of place. And Chablis, one of the five sub-regions, the soil bursting with minerals, sets itself apart symbiotically from the others. In addition, strict stainless steel aging helps contribute to some of the most crisp, clean, shamelessly exposed white wines in the world.
There are some great South African Chardonnays as well, (not to mention South American, Australian, Italian, and so on) and as you can imagine, they all have their own unique flavor profiles.
So the next time you’re concerned with someone judging you based on what type of wine you prefer (which may never happen), remind yourself that your options aren’t as limited as you think. Don’t let the psychological game take hold of you without putting up a fight. It’s worth it, and you can take my word for it.