Have you heard of the French Paradox? If not, here’s a brief and incomplete history.
The French Paradox
Way back in the 1990s, a French researcher shared his study that France’s comparatively high fat diet (cheese and butter) and impressive wine consumption didn’t lead to increased instances of heart disease.
Fat doesn't make you fat?
Wine is good for you?
After coverage on 60 Minutes and in multiple news outlets, Americans rejoiced, “Let us eat cheese and drink red wine.”
Sure enough, red wine sales surged 40% the next year.
Upon further study, the reduced risk was more likely due to the French people's passion for fruits, vegetables, and dietary fiber. I’d argue that lifestyle and culture are a factor too.
Now, let's shift gears.
The (other) French Paradox
Today, I want to tell you about another French Paradox. This one isn't about red wine, but wine learning.
When you start learning about wine, France seems unavoidable. Pick up a wine book, and you’ll see. Compared to the entire wine drinking universe, France seems fairly prominent in total page count and placement.
Similar to the Wine Bible (pictured above), Windows on the World—the book based on the wine course taught at the eponymous restaurant—opens with Chapter 1: White Wines of France. The coverage continues in gigantic tomes for nearly every region: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and more.
Same goes for podcasts. If you spend time learning about your favorite winemaker, she'll explain how a trip to the Loire Valley changed her life.
And should you get stuck talking to young Sommelier, it’s only a matter of time before he jumps onto his Beaujolais soapbox.
Bombarded by Franco-mania, wine beginners make faulty assumptions.
“The only way to learn about wine is to learn about French wine.”
Cue the frustration as you process vocabulary and geography to interpret labels.
It's completely disorienting.
You wonder: is the wine or the wine learning giving me a headache?
It will be okay.
You’ll learn a lot about France...eventually. But trying to gulp it all down at once is a rookie move. Trust me. I know.
See that quote about Premier Cru above? I had that exact thought when I started learning about wine.
These days, I encourage wine lovers to approach wine learning as they would an all-day wine tasting. Sip and spit, so you don't end up puking in the corner.
What does this all mean?
If you want to learn about France, go for it. But be prepared for roadblocks. And if you don't care about French wine (at least, right now), no big deal.
I believe the premise of wine learning is simple:
Start with a wine you love, and the rest will take care of itself.
More on this next week.