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The Nose That Knows: Wine 101

This sponsored column is written by the team at Arrowine & Cheese (4508 Cherry Hill Road in Arlington). Sign up for the email newsletter and receive exclusive discounts and offers. Experience Arrowine’s Tastings & Events. Have a question? Email thenose@arrowine.com.

Few subjects provoke more angst than wine. For many, wine is a great mystery, a secret handshake, or a password. It doesn’t need to be.

My job with this bi-weekly column is to help you safely navigate the complex world of wine without intimidation or nonsense. You are in control.

If you take a moment and read my musings, hopefully you find them valuable, educational, practical and perhaps even entertaining. I will be trying to get you to engage and ask questions, make requests for future articles and reach out. I’m listening but know I’m an excruciatingly bad typist and have learned to use the fewest words possible for practicality’s sake.

Let me begin with a little about myself. I am 64 years old and have been in the wine biz since, and I hate to say it since 1977; I began my career in the very spot that Arrowine currently occupies. In those days, you “old-timers” out there might remember the “old” Cheese and Bottle.

I’m not just a fine wine retailer but also an importer within the confines of the laws of the State of Virginia. I have traveled extensively throughout France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, The New Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Greece, Israel, South Africa and Argentina in search of the best wines these places have to offer. I also hunt for “new-growers” whose work has yet to be discovered or who are not currently represented in Virginia or our region.

I proudly support Virginia’s Wine Industry. Did you know we are now the fifth largest producer of wine in the USA? Virginia Wine is no longer an oddity; we produce the best wine on the East Coast. And many Virginia wineries are “World Class!”

Doug Rosen of Arrowine with Gérard Boulay of tiny Village of Chavignol, in Sancerre. His family has been growing grapes there since 1380. (photo via Doug Rosen)

I have extensively traveled throughout Oregon. I’m long overdue for a California and Washington State road trip, but I have a store to run. Pre-COVID, I usually took six buying trips a year. That’s a lot of miles, moving daily, staying in small hotels with no elevator or A/C. And despite what people might think, crappy food. So I usually travel to the countryside, and there aren’t many resources in the middle of nowhere.

All that said, I wouldn’t change a thing. You need to go where the wine is! I’ve met many humble, hard-working families, men and women who are genuinely jack-of-all-trades; they grow grapes, transform the juice into something delicious, and then market it in many cases worldwide. They only get to practice their craft 40 or so times in a lifetime! So you have to be a quick study. How many occupations are this demanding?

I am the ambassador of these families. My job is to tell their stories and, when appropriate, convey how much risk there is at every step. A career in agriculture is like walking on a tightrope without a net. There is so much out of your control, precocious flowering and then a late frost that can wipe out your entire harvest, hail damage, too much rain or not enough, excessive cold or heat, insect infestations, wood diseases and the list goes on and on.

And then you have to ferment the juice and try to get it into the bottle without screwing it up. Sell it and hopefully get paid. Making wine from your own grapes is not for the faint of heart. Trust me!

Congratulations if you made it to the end of my ramblings, I have a secret to share with you. It is the one simple thing guaranteed to heighten your pleasure of drinking wine or anything else.

Never and I mean never, use glass without thoroughly washing with soap and water before using it! I’ll explain why in two weeks and give you a little experiment to perform at home.

Cheers,
Doug

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