January 03, 2013

To know by heart; the year of wine geography

Excerpt from a recent dinner conversation:

"You really don't need to know things by heart, it's so unnecessary!" my friend said. "Fortunately, school is focused on other things today. To analyse, to see the bigger context, to argue. That's far more important."

"Yes, I remember all that unnecessary stuff we had to learn when we were in school," another one agreed. "Things like the rivers in Halland [Swedish landscape, my comment]. Why should we know them by heart? So ridiculous. When you can find it all on the web, so easy."

The rivers in Halland. Of course I know them. We all had to learn that rhyme; "We shall eat, you shall cook." So I know that the rivers are Viskan, Ätran, Nissan and Lagan.  Is that unnecessary knowledge? And learning things by heart, is that totally outdated?

I didn't agree and argued against my friends. Geography, for example. How would we be able to grasp the context, analyse and argue about an incident if we don't know where in the world it has taken place?

Of course, my thoughts were at the same time in the world of wine. Wine without geography, that should for me be a much poorer pleasure. Wine, without origin, that would only be an industrial product. An alcoholic beverage made by fermented grapes. Wine, together with geography, on the other hand, give so much nuances to the experience. To be able to place the wine on the map, for me, that is just as important as the knowledge of the included grape varieties.

Do we then have to know our wine geography by heart? Yes, I think so. At least in broad terms. To know that Barossa is in Australia, Stellenbosch in South Africa and Puglia is in the southern Italy, that should be a minimum. It would be very inconvenient and take too much time to be forced to consult the computer or the smart phone every time you want to know.

Can you think of a sommelier who has to take a look at the Ipad before she/he can tell you where in the world the grapes for the chosen wine were grown? No, of course not. But the new generation of wine lovers, both professional and amateurs, will have a more difficult time when school don't teach and ask for basic knowledge. Well, I hope my friends around the dinner table exaggerated. That the situation in school is not that bad.

However, when I reflected on our dinner conversation, I got an insight. Geography is incredibly important for my wine experiences. So essential that it influenced my choice of New Year's resolution: 2013 is hereby appointed to the year of wine geography.

It will be a pleasure to take a tight grip of the wine atlas and start repeating the old well-known wine regions. And just as fun to start exploring and put new regions to the bank of "by heart knowledge".

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