I'm surprised people are surprised.
I'm referring to a new study of wine drinkers by an organization called Wine Opinions. One of the report's findings that apparently surprised some is something I consider obvious. Most wine isn't consumed with meals. People drink wine under all kinds of situations. At or with a meal is just one setting.
Winemakers can only rejoice at this "finding" (not that it's news to them). People drink wine (and beer and spirits) because it tastes good and because it has alcohol. That most wine is enjoyed outside of a sit-down dining experience shouldn't surprise anyone. But it also explains something about today's wine styles. And why some people pay less attention to wine-and-food pairings.
If the most important reason people drink wine is that it tastes good, then that underscores why today's wine styles are usually built around fruit, and flavor, and textural appeals. That is, wines that are too lean (or high in acidity), or tannic, don't appeal to as broad a market as those that are fleshy and supple. This is a simplification, of course. The aforementioned study indicates that Cabernet, Merlot and white Zinfandel are still among the most popular wines.
Recently, Harvey Steiman addressed the topic from the perspective of food-and-wine pairings. He's long been among the most reasoned voices—drink what you like with foods that you like, and don't worry about colors or flavors. Focus on what tastes good.
Many of us came of age in an era when chefs were systematically breaking down or destroying the Old World rules of wine-and-food matching. Sure, it's fun to see how different foods and wines work (or don't). Our annual Wine Experience chef's food-and-wine challenge is wildly popular.
That this generation is willing to explore and embrace all kinds of different wines and foods explains why wine consumption is still on the rise in this country. Few things in life are better than sharing wine and food with friends or family around a table.
Imagine what consumption figures would look like if people only drank wine with the 20 minutes most set aside for meals.
Brad Paulsen — Saratoga, CA — April 7, 2011 7:51pm ET
Sandy Fitzgerald — Centennial, CO — April 7, 2011 9:54pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento, CA — April 8, 2011 10:17am ET
Morewine Bishar — Del Mar, California — April 8, 2011 2:31pm ET
Patrick Benton — Thousand Oaks, CA — April 8, 2011 5:41pm ET
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