The “Amazon” Approach to Discovering New Wines

Was it that started the “If you like such-and-such, you might like…” craze in marketing?

Visit Amazon, and you’ll see that concept applied to virtually anything you could buy, from music CDs to movie DVDs, and from books to electronics. Countless other websites now have that “feature” as well.

Which got me thinking: Could the same methodology be applied to wine? My conclusion: Absolutely.

But how could that be? After all, each person has a unique palate, one that “experiences” flavors in its own way. What might taste like cherries to one person could taste like blackberries to another.

Well, it’s actually that range of flavor experiences that makes wine ideal for such an exercise. The key word in the phrase, “you might like,” is… might.

For some people, similar flavors in two different wines would provide the “linkage.” For others, it might be the mouthfeel—whether a wine is light-bodied, medium-bodied or full-bodied. Another “connecting” factor could be the wine’s tannin structure; some people simply don’t like big tannic monsters, while others seek them out (sometimes with the idea of cellaring them for several years before uncorking them).

So, let’s try the “Amazon” method with a few well-known…and lesser-known…varieties…

  • If you like Sauvignon Blanc, you might like Torrontes. What’s the connecting factor here? Aroma. There is nothing subtle about the nose of a well-made Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a grape that doesn’t merely show its varietal uniqueness; it struts it. Likewise, Torrontes is known for its in-your-face aromas—very different from those of Sauvignon Blanc, but every bit as assertive.
  • If you like Merlot, you might like Cabernet Sauvignon. The two varieties share a number of aroma and flavor impressions, but Cabernet typically is much more tannic, while Merlot is known for its “mellowness.” Some would say that Cabernet is Merlot on steroids. So if you enjoy the flavors of Merlot, but would like to try a “bigger” wine, Cabernet Sauvignon is your next logical step.
  • If you like Chardonnay, you might like Viognier. Here, the similarity is texture. If you like the mouthfeel of Chardonnay, but not necessarily all that oak, spice and butter flavor that often comes along with it… give Viognier a try.

Once you’re able to zero in on specific aspects of wine that you like, it opens the door to tasting and enjoying many other varieties.

Posted in Editor's Journal
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