When I was growing up (which, admittedly, was a long, long time ago), we were taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America.
No ifs, ands or buts about it. Perhaps you had to memorize the same poem I did: “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…”
Today, of course, we know that America had been “discovered” long before the arrival of Columbus and his three ships. Perhaps that’s why four states — Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon and South Dakota — have opted out of the annual Columbus Day observance.
But a number of other countries continue to pay homage to the explorer with special days. In several Latin American countries, “Dia de la Raza” (Day of the Race) is celebrated. In the Bahamas, “Discovery Day” is commemorated. In Spain, Columbus is remembered through “Fiesta Nacional.”
So, even though he may not have done what we were taught he did, Columbus still played an important role in uniting Europe and the “New World,” and helping to initiate the colonization of North America. I have long admired his sense of adventure, and tried to emulate it in at least some parts of my life — including my exploration of wine.
It’s so easy to get into a vinous rut once we discover a particular type of wine that we really like. But when it comes to the fermented gifts of the grape, a sense of discovery can be extremely rewarding. There is so much to explore, and the exploration can follow any of several paths.
If you’ve already explored many of the white varieties, it might be time to sample some reds… or rosés… or sparkling wines. Likewise, if all you drink is bubbly, the time has come to discover still table wines.
You also could emulate Columbus and do your exploring by country. If you like California Cabernet, try a French Bordeaux red. If you like California Chardonnay, seek out an Australian rendition. Some countries grow varieties that you may never have heard of, yet can be amazing treats for your palate.
Here’s the coolest thing of all for wine drinkers in search of vinous adventure: Whether you explore by wine style, wine type or wine region, every year… every vintage… brings something new to explore in each and every category.
Today, I invite you to join me in raising a glass of wine to Christopher Columbus… and uncorking (or unscrewing) a bottle you’ve never had before.