The simple reason some of us spend many liver-destroying hours obsessing over wine is that it’s endlessly multifaceted. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that nothing endures but change, and in the wine world this is especially true. Wine is in constant flux, from its time on the vine, through fermentation and bottling, even as it sits in your glass. One of the most fundamental truths in wine is that it is never, ever, the same, and it is this intrinsic sense of difference that winemakers and collectors and drinkers are forever chasing.
And yet many people seek consistency in wine, finding one brand or region or style that they like and going no further, revisiting that choice night after night. It’s easy to see why. America has long held consistency to be a source of pride; from Henry Ford to McDonald’s, we want our material goods to be unwaveringly the same and we choose familiarity over something riskier. If there is one thing I would urge you to do this New Year, it would be to try something new.
I rarely buy the same wine twice. Although there is much pleasure to be found in checking in on old friends, the world is filled with far too many wines for such timidity. Don’t be afraid to experiment, be it with places, grapes, or styles. There is more to wine than California or Bordeaux, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. There are thousands of grape varieties being grown in 69 different countries. That’s a lifetime of exploring. Start now.
Discover regions away from the mainstream. Try wines from France’s Loire Valley instead of Burgundy and Bordeaux. The Loire has a massive variety of styles—bone dry whites, amazing desert wines, soft, minerally reds, and everything in between—most of which are reasonably priced and naturally made. Or experiment with new varietals. In Italy, skip the Pinot Grigio in favor of Greco di Tufo or Falanghena. Try the food-friendly, white pepper-flavored Grüner Veltliner, the fragrant acidity of Albãrino, or the rich variety of Chenin Blanc. Try deep, dark Aglianico, velvet and fruity Zweigelt, or the spicy complexity of Sagrantino. Drink wines precisely because you’ve never heard of them. The rustic reds of Portugal’s Douro and Dão regions, the unpronounceable grapes of Greece (xinomavro, anyone?), and the war-torn wines of Lebanon. Try anything and everything. Think of wine as an adventure, not as a sure thing. You will be the richer for it.
Be less concerned with perfection. Constantly trying new wines means getting some you don’t like. This is O.K. It is wine’s nature, as it is humanity’s, to be, at times, flawed. But with a change of mindset, you may find fewer duds than you imagine. Instead of approaching every bottle with the hope that it matches what you like, be open to learning to like what it gives you. Too many people seek only one type of taste. Let that go. I am not advocating that you drink wine that you don’t enjoy, just that you learn to enjoy wine for the ways in which it tastes utterly unlike anything you’ve every had before. There is much more to wine than jammy fruit and oak.
So this coming year I urge you to drink differently. Heraclitus also said that you can never step in the same river twice. Well, I say that you cannot drink the same wine twice, for every year, every bottle, every glass is different.