Red or White Drinker? Lose the Label and Drink Colour Blind.
Are you a red wine drinker or a white wine drinker? If you’ve ever been the one holding the wine list at a restaurant, then you’ve likely started there. You’ve certainly been asked at some point to identify yourself as a member of the red or white faction.
Certainly, there are social reasons to adopt a favourite hue and throw in with your fellow red or white drinkers on a bottle. I’m not saying there are zero reasons people adopt these labels, but I definitely think things can go too far.
I mean really, ALL red wines are too dry and tannic and ALL white wines are too sweet? I’m not saying there are not valid reasons you like one over other, but how about we take a step back for a second and recognize that the wine world is just too varied and complex to continue choosing your wine by colour alone.
It’s definitely not unusual to see people refuse wine under the grounds that they “only drink the other colour of wine,” and, “know they won’t like it.” Let’s be honest, with that kind of mental preparation the wine really doesn’t stand a chance. I mean, grown ups telling themselves that there are only two types of wine, one is good and the other is yucky, it’s enough to make someone write something about it.
Maybe decades ago here in Canada this red or white question had some use: back when Canadian wine barely existed outside of red or white jugs, back when asking what grape was in said jug you were likely to get a blank stare followed by, “I dunno, probably the red one idiot.”
But the experience is quite different now. Walk down the aisle, sorry I mean aisles, of BC wine and the selections are vast. With new producers and styles popping up in BC every year it would be a shame to refuse over half of the output from this burgeoning wine region just because of a self-imposed predisposition to a colour.
And really, what about wines other two colours; the pink and the orange?
If we are going to keep the colour approach to label what we like then shouldn’t we really be asking, “are you a red, white, pink, or orange drinker?” After all, this is the reality of wine now, and if we insist on keeping the labels then we are really going to need expand the options. How about, “orange-curious red lover,” or, “rosé-tolerant white drinker”? It’s a scary thought, but since we are here, we might as well admit that we’ll also need to start incorporating wine’s latest dueling camps, the Natural vs. Conventional, into our self-labeling.
Seeing as I definitely have a preference for the “less is more” approach to winemaking why don’t I start with myself? How about, “funk tolerant bubble lover. What’s that you say? This Syrah was filtered. Yeah, no thanks I know I won’t like it.”
Maybe it’s just easier to lose the labels all together.
In my mind, every new wine is a chance to find something else to love, not the chance to reinforce what I think I like. Wine, like possibly everything in life, is best enjoyed with food and an open mind, so maybe it’s time to start giving “off-colour” wines a real chance.
In every colour of wine there are variations, and in even the Rosé and Orange colours from the Okanagan you can now find something for everyone.
With Rosés, the range isn’t even just between sweet and dry anymore. One of the newer wineries on the road to Naramata, Roche Wines, makes a decidedly French style of Rosé from the decidedly not French grape Zweigelt. French Rosé tends to be characterized by the light and bright wines of Provence, which this lively wine fits in well with. Rosé is not just Provence though. Drink Italian, Spanish, or even the Rosés of another French region, Tavel, and you’ll find much deeper hues of pink and red that match refreshing acidity with a richer fruit profile. For a BC version of this, you might want to nab a bottle of the Rosé from Painted Rock when the new vintages are released this year.
In the case of Orange wine, basically a style of wine that comes from white grapes that are treated like red grapes in the winery, we can also find a range of styles.
I find most people introduce Orange wines with a warning about how they are funky and not for everyone, and god forbid you order one in a restaurant without getting interviewed by the server to see if you are sure you know what you are doing.
The handful of homegrown orange to amber coloured wine is quickly turning into an armload here in BC and rest assured they are not all the funky beasts we are warned of. White drinkers should especially give the Pinot Gris from Nicole a try. The extra 36 hours on skins imparts a mild texture and a slight peat aroma for a new experience without overpowering the Okanagan Pinot Gris fruit flavours.
Ready for the more intense version? How about you pick up the Pied du Cuve “Orange” from Little Farm Winery in the Silmilkameen Valley. Its golden haze is a beautiful thing to see in the bottle and although you can’t escape the intensity of texture and a few unexpected aromas from the extended skin contact, the wine is also full of great apricot and passionfruit aromas and flavours. Honestly, put the words funky and weird out of your mind when trying this wine or you will miss how simply delicious it is.
Too often I think people forget a fundamental question when drinking wine that they are unaccustomed to, or just not a go-to, which is simply, “do I find this delicious?” It’s like something that exists outside of our definition for the “normal” wine we like can’t also be delicious and pleasing at the same time, just never more than “different”. So I’m going to warn you about Orange wine here just because it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, which a good flavour and texture comparison to use when drinking Orange wines btw. Just drink them and see for yourself. And don’t forget, the worst thing that’s going to happen is that you won’t like it.
In the end, it’s okay to have your deserted island wine picks, but my guess is that if you’re reading this you aren’t stranded on an island so celebrate that fact and go out and try something new.
White for Red Drinkers: Haywire “Free Form White” – Sauvignon Blanc that is aged on skins for 9 months. A long list of citrus and herbal notes to find here that are common to a variety of white wines, but coupled with a bold texture not commonly found in them.
Red for White Drinkers: Tall Tale “Syrah Nouveau” – A new kid in the Valley, Kyle Lyons is making this Syrah with an homage to the techniques that give us the light and fruity Gamays from the Beaujolais region in France. This approach allows for bright fruit and acidity, but avoids tannin, which is something the red averse will find enjoyable.