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Introduction

Drinking wine is an experience. To drink for the purposes of becoming drunk is not what drinking wine as an experience is all about. Wine is food. Just like the delight which comes from eating your most favorite food, wine, as food can provide similar enchantment.

But drinking wine has somehow also entered into the realm of snobbery. This is a shame for it can (and does) prevent many from getting in on the enjoyment of this marvelous product of nature. For that reason, I have undertaken to prepare this guide, not as a wine expert (which I am most assuredly not), but as an average drinker of relatively good wine. My aim here is to try and explain about wine in a way that is understandable but, I hope, not forbidding. With this intent, I may offend some sensibilities or make some outright mistakes. Remember, I am relying on a little bit of knowledge, and everyone knows what happens with a little bit of knowledge. If I'm wrong about the facts, please let me know. If I get carried away and the tone gets too pompous, pretentious, or downright haughty, also let me know. Some have let me know that they think this thing I call a FAQ is a wee-bit, shall we say, "wordy.". Perhaps, but I'd rather err on the side of length. As with anything else in this world, you don't have to look at it!

To the correspondent who let me know that I clearly personally knew nothing about wine and was merely copying the work of others, I think he missed the point. First, except where stated, so far as I know, I have copied nothing. Any new book or article contains the ideas of author, especially if he or she comes to the subject with enthusiasm. While I am no expert, I definely have some ideas about the subject, especially when it comes to breaking down the mystery and mystique that some seem to want to bring to the subject. Wine is food. People like to eat--and drink. If you choose to drink wine, do it to enjoy, not to be part of a cult. Second, this was and is still meant to be a FAQ for "Frequently Asked Questions." To cut down on the repetition of questions and answers in Usenet, we started this project. The Internet is a marvelous way of sharing information. See us here as a repository of that information (notice we don't necessarily say "knowledge" here).

Because of the sheer volume of information, I am not following the question and answer FAQ format. A Table of Contents and a comprehensive Index are provided instead. The choice of what to include was made up from the questions I have had about wine, suggestions from others, and from watching the Usenet groups on the subject. Suggestions, comments, criticism and whatever are welcome. While this already seems like a book to me, I've actually tried to cut down on the verbiage. It will probably get even longer through time. The discussion about the University of Davis (especially given the global reach of the internet) is a case in point. However, this being in nature a FAQ, topics which generate repeated questions or a great amount of replies deserve, in my humble opinion, more attention. Electronic "paper" is relatively cheap. In any event, I have take a great deal of time to try to make the index and table of contents broad enough to let the reader find just about anything--quickly!

Living in Southern California means that I get to enjoy the huge diversity of the West Coast of the United States at, perhaps, a somewhat reduced cost. It also means that I can visit the wineries and winemakers that produce these wines from time to time. That is good. Unfortunately it also means that I have virtually no knowledge of the wonderful (and to me, much more expensive) wines of Europe and most of the rest of the world. This guide is a compilation of information, and can grow, through time, through the assistance of the Internet Community. Please send me comments, information, or anything else you think belongs here. I don't expect early versions to be earthshaking, merely distributed worldwide. What all this means is that if I have the chutzpah to prepare a wine guide as a relative novice, newcomers to wine can realize that they need not be put off by the sometimes arcane world of wine and can join it without fear!

Since the making, drinking and enjoyment of wine is a huge subject (and I certainly don't know all the answers), I've been necessarily superficial in my answers (though perhaps longer, than in many FAQS!). This can lead to argument about the validity of what I have had to say. Since this isn't meant to be an encyclopedia, some sort of brevity is important. As I've said, I have received comments that say some of the portions are too long. Many feel that specific great wines of the world have been overlooked. This is true, not just because this--so far--isn't a book, but because I have made a conscious decision to not go too far out on a limb in incorporating information about things about which I truly know nothing and can't adequately satisfy for myself that the information sent to me is correct. They say that more information is published on the Internet in one week than is set to paper in a year. They don't say how much of it (including, of course, this FAQ) is correct. With this as with everything, caveat emptor--"Let the buyer beware."

I stand in the position of chronicler first, wine enthusiast second. Why do I say this? I received a somewhat unfriendly note telling me that it was clear from the FAQ that I knew very little about wine and that I was merely repeating the thoughts of others. My response was that everything I wrote (unless I said otherwise) was made up by me, but very well may have been a distillation of information from elsewhere. On a subject upon which there has been written so much, it is almost foolhardy to think that one can contribute anything new in what is merely a primer on a subject, but my intent here was to at least give out some information in non-stuffy way, with my own views on the subject. Furthermore, as several have mentioned, this is a rather wordy document for a FAQ. Nevertheless, it tries to remain true to the concept of a FAQ, that is, to answer Frequently Asked Questions in the hopes that it won't be necessary for the friendly folks in the world, especially those who chat amongst themselves using Usenet, to keep repeating the same answers over and over and over and.... To that end, I am quite happy to try to distill the thoughts of others and repeat them here. Ere what's a FAQ for?

In any event, everyone is urged to buy a book or two on the subject and read away. More importantly, drink away and have a good time.

PLEASE NOTE

This is a work-in-progress. Some, but not all, of the mistakes pointed out to me have been incorporated in this version. I'm still working on fixing the errors and will then move on to incorporating new sections that have clearly been areas of discussion in the Usenet groups I have monitored

This version represents the first real move to a true WWW HTML version. Some of the parts have been re-written, but mostly to correct some mistakes. While it will be easier to incorporate many of the new pieces I have been thinking about, while writing this I have yet to figure out how I'll turn it back into ASCII for Usenet and text mail purposes (I know there are programs out there, I just haven't used them yet!). To that end, forgive the references that contain URL's. I'm trying to remember to also make them links, but the URL itself remains for people reading with text browsers! Multimedia is fun, pictures are nice. We've included a few, more to come.

One final note on the drinking of wine vis-a-vis the information in this Guide. What you like is the best rule of thumb. The experiences of others are a handy guide but these experiences often get shrouded in the myths, mysteries and ritual. This is off-putting and shouldn't be. In some parts of the world, wine is drunk daily as a part of the meal. There's no big conundrum about what glass to serve it in or how long to age the wine (since most is drunk young). In other parts of the world, the United States, for example, wine often is a restaurant's marked-up profit center and the "rituals" of wine are haggled over incessantly. Since this Guide is somewhat of a rulebook by virtue of its existence, I would like to lay to rest the idea that this is what I have in mind in creating it. Use this Guide to get into wine, if that is your goal. After that, just have fun.

Special thanks to the people listed in the Acknowlegment section!

The most current text format copy of the FAQ (which won't be as up-to-date as this HTML WWW version) is available in text format by e-mail from us at bradb@netcom.com (or can be downloaded from here). The most current WWW copies are found at:

(U.S.)    http://www.sbwines.com/usenet_winefaq
(U.K.)   http://www.bath.ac.uk/~su3ws/wine-faq/wine-faq.html

We hope you get some use and enjoyment out of our project.

Cheers!

Bradford Brown


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