I’m a recent convent to the religion of wine. Of largely Irish heritage, I grew up a beer drinker and stayed that way through most of my adulthood. However in the past 4-5 years, spurred mostly by my travels and a desire for better health, I have switched almost totally to wine. Like when I started drinking beer, wine is an acquired taste. It takes time to develop a palate for drinking wine. While I can’t say that I have a fully developed wine palate, I can say I’m definitely a wine lover now. And here are the reasons why:
The initial reason that I decided to switch from beer to wine was for health reasons. Multiple studies have shown the antioxidants in wine reduce the chances of heart attacks and strokes. (Unfortunately) these benefits are only when you drink wine in moderation, no more than 1-2 glasses of wine a day. Anything more than that amount adds excess sugar into your system, which cancels out the health benefits. In addition, red wine contains procyanidins, which protect against heart disease. Data from a recent study in Finland show that wine drinkers have a 34% lower mortality rate than beer/hard liquor drinkers. Again (sigh) these benefits are only when wine is consumed in moderation.
Varieties of Wine
Another aspect of wine that led me away from beer is the huge variety of wine options available. While beer has many types (lagers, ales, stouts, etc.), even the most ambitious beer drinker is typically limited to local products. Wine not only has a large variety of options based the grapes and process used, it is also international. Wine lovers can sample wine from wine producing countries around the world. This reason for this is simple. Beer has a limited shelf life and must be consumed in a limited time frame before it begins to deteriorate. Wine has a distinct advantage in that it can be stored for years. This means it can be transported much farther distances, stored, and then opened and enjoyed years later.
Pairs With Food
Coupled with the variety of wine is the ability of wine to improve the quality of a meal. While there is an art of pairing wine with food that I have not yet mastered, if you find the right match, then both the flavor of the wine and the food complement and enhance the other. Wine is composed of different aspects (type, region, sugar, tannins and alcohol) and food has its own components (flavor, texture, spices and richness). Combining the various aspects of these two components together can be challenging and difficult (at least for me!), but when it is done successfully, it improves the quality of both at a meal.
Travel the World (by Bottle)
Wine is distinct by region. Physical geography and climate has a huge influence on wines. While burbundy wines are made around the world, Burgundy wine from, well, Burgundy are unique. A favorite of mine, Riojas from Spain, taste like no other tempranillo grape based wines in the world. Wine can transport you to countries and regions (Bordeaux, Champagne, Napa Valley) by simply opening a bottle and pouring the contents in a glass.
In addition, if you have sampled wine while on a trip or at a special location, that same wine can take you back even when you are in the comforts of your own home.
Time in a Bottle
Wine is a snapshot in time; a specific moment at a specific place. When you open a bottle, you are going back to that region at that year. Was it rainy, dry? The wine can tell you. Was the oak it was casked new barrels? Old? Was the oak from France or America? The wine will tell you about all of these things as you drink it. Vintage to vintage, barrel to barrel, bottle to bottle; the wine will whisper its secrets as soon as you pop the cork.