Buzz: Hey Marnie, it's getting warmer and I'm looking for wine, but there are so many wines in the stores, my head is spinning.
Marnie: I'm not sure what you mean, Buzz. People like wine, and there's clearly demand for a wide range of flavors and styles.
Buzz: Yes, but with whiskeys or beers, there are only so many and you see the same ones in most stores. There are tons more kinds of wines and they're not always the same brands. Plus a wine called chardonnay could be super sweet or super taut. I'm overwhelmed!
Marnie: Ah, I see your point. The number of wine options can definitely seem overwhelming, even when you're just dining out in a restaurant. As to why that is, it has to do with how differently wine is made compared to other drinks. Beers and spirits are essentially manufactured goods. Wines are agricultural products that can't be replicated the same way.
Buzz: Wait a minute. Are you saying wines are different at every farm, but beers and whiskeys are the same everywhere?
Marnie: If I wanted to make beer or whiskey, I'd need to combine certain ingredients in specific proportions and follow a particular recipe in processing. If I do it right, the end product will be consistent, with each batch tasting the same, whether it's a pilsner or a bourbon.
Buzz: OK, so why doesn't that happen with the wines?
Marnie: Wine is different because it's made with a single ingredient - grapes - whose flavors are largely dependent on their environment. Every batch will always taste a little different. And since no one owns enough land to grow enough grapes to dominate the wine market, there will always be a lot more wineries than there are breweries or distilleries.
Buzz: That means there are just a lot more little guys in the wine biz then.
Marnie: Yes, that's part of the story, but it goes much deeper than that. In wine, we value the variations in flavor imposed by Mother Nature as much as those controlled by the winemaker.
Buzz: Boy, I'd love to investigate Mother Nature with a winemaker.
Marnie: In fact, this is a great week to explore this, Buzz. It's Philly Wine Week, so local wine bars will be hosting dozens of events celebrating wine's diversity now through Sunday. On Thursday, for example, you could step off the beaten track with wines from Spain's Canary Islands at Vedge on Locust, or pig out on pork pairings with Decibel's New Zealand wines at Heritage on North 2nd Street.
Buzz: Wow, what a great idea! The weather is warmer, the wines are mingling, and I am ready to be sippin' and slippin.' Thanks Marnie.
For more info on Philly Wine Week events, visit www.phillywineweek.org