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If I only knew then ... the wine version

March 16, 2011 |  5:00 am

What are the most important things you wish you had known when you started to learn about wine? My old friend Matt Kramer, in his Wine Spectator column this week, makes his suggestions. Typically for Kramer, they’re an unvarnished assortment -– he’s never one to sugarcoat his opinions. But after more than 30 years writing about wine, why should he? Heck, by now he's practically venerable.

Among Kramer’s most important lessons:

--The Big Lie of wine is “If you like it, it’s good.” Every wine evangelist likes to tell newbies this nonsense, the better to make them feel happy and secure. It’s infantilizing. What you like is just that: what you like. You should drink what you like, no question. But assuming that your liking of it automatically makes it “good” is the worst sort of ignorant arrogance. And those who give you such “absolution” are patronizing you, however well-meant their intentions.

--If you want to know what “good” is, you’re going to have to make comparisons. Whether you do so in the structured environment of a wine-tasting class or just at home with a couple of bottles of the same type of wine, you have to make comparisons in order to know better from worse. Deduct two points from any score over 90 and add three points to any score over 80.

And finally, smaller usually is better -- but not always.

--Russ Parsons

(Photo by Randi Lynn Beach)