Last week, I attended the first-ever portfolio tasting for Synergy Fine Wines. 350 different wines, beers, spirits and sakes were hopefully poured for Denver's restaurant and retail buyers to taste and buy. It was nice to see the guys from Ruby Trust Cellars pouring their 2011 wines. With only a handful of Colorado wineries represented by distributors, it's a big deal to see one at an event like this. I was only at the tasting for about an hour and I spent most of that time walking around and randomly trying wines; a few Burgundies, some Californian wines, a couple from Italy and of course a handful of Spanish wines. I wasn't surprised to see that the lone Slovenia ribolla gialla was thoroughly ravaged by the flock of sommeliers at the venue (what do you call a group of sommeliers?).
At the Spanish table, something, or I should say someone, struck me about the current state of the wine industry. A wine shop owner and I struck up a brief conversation. He pointed to a bottle of Viña Borgia 2012 Garnacha and said that the label was good. He said he could sell a lot of it just on the label. I just bit my tongue. He then asked me if I had tried anything good at the table. I pointed to the Avanthia Godello, from Valdeorras, that could easily masquerade as a top chardonnay twice its price. The $24 retail price scared him away from thinking about buying it, but he still tried it. I moved a few steps over to a bottle of Bodegas Ramírez de la Piscina 2009 Crianza that quickly grabbed my attention.
Now, the sad reality of that interaction was that the wine store owner (I have my doubts about it being a "fine wine" shop) didn't really care about the wine inside the bottle. He wanted a cheap bottle of wine that he could easily sell. Sadly, that is how most American wine consumers think. They (we) just want something inoffensive that doesn't break the bank. Oh, and a pretty label helps. The effort, the thoughts and the love that go into many premium wines are an afterthought to the majority of American wine drinkers. While you and I want the experience and the emotion that comes with exploring the world of wine, most people just want something to drink.
And that leads me to the beauty of the wine industry today. American wine drinkers consume more wine than any other nation. That means a lot of people are drinking wine. With the average bottle price being in the $5-$6 range, that means a whole hell of a lot of cheap wine is drunk from coast to coast. Ribolla gialla and trousseau gris are no where on most people's wine radar. They don't care what I, or Joe Roberts or let alone Robert Parker have to say about wine. They might care what their friends or their neighbors drink, but they just want wine. It's a four-letter word and can be complicated (if you let it be so), but it is not brain surgery. You don't have to be an expert to enjoy it, nor do you have to listen to one. You just need a wine shop owner that knows you want a pretty label with something purple and tasty inside.