The Cyrano Wine Column: The Weight

January 5, 2024

Today we’d like to introduce a new column to our blog: The Cyrano (de Bergerac) Wine Column: Vino Advice from Behind the Curtain. Without further ado, Cyrano’s first post- on how to discover more wines you’ll enjoy (and the best bargains) by learning to observe weights of wine:

The Weight

I don’t know many who can tell me what Pinot Grigio actually tastes like. In fact, most people I have asked say they really just want something light and, dare I say it, fruity. It could be any number of wines. This, of course, opens up numerous possibilities for choices, and that is at the heart of what I would like to discuss: relative weights of wine.

For me, rarely, if ever, do I order or buy wine by variety. That is to say I do not go in looking specifically for Pinot Noir or Syrah. Instead I choose by how heavy I want the wine to be. If I am in the mood for a lighter red wine then I can have Pinot Noir, Gamay, Barbera, and Dolcetto and so on. Heavier could be Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon etc.

This is much like in cooking. Many times when you do not have the ingredient called for in the recipe you can make a substitution that approximates the flavor and desired effect of the original ingredient.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I do know which varieties I prefer and which ones I simply cannot drink. If you hate, say, Cabernet Franc, then its relative weight is completely irrelevant. Wine preferences are very subjective and one person’s favorite could be anathema to another. That said you do need to try it before you decide you do not like it.

Situational Considerations

And to make matters even more confusing, the situation in which you had your favorite (or least favorite) wine can have a huge bearing on your perception as well.

Let me illustrate this point:
Years ago when I was a sommelier at a well respected restaurant I approached a female guest at a table to help her with a wine choice. She asked if we carried Est!,Est!, Est! #, her favorite white wine. We did not carry any so I asked her what she liked about it. Certainly it was preferable because it was light and fruity but there was something she could not put her finger on that raised this wine to its exalted level in her estimation. I asked when she had it, “on my honeymoon”. “were you in Rome?” I asked. “yes, on a beautiful day at a great restaurant, sitting outside”. This is a clear case of “situational wine infatuation” (SWI). It was not the wine, but rather the particulars of the circumstances under which she enjoyed it. I suggested a Vernaccia di San Gimignano and she loved it. The fact that is was made from Vernaccia as opposed to Trebbiano was not even an issue. It was the correct weight and it was reminiscent of what she had enjoyed many years ago.

A Finer Point

Earlier I had picked on Pinot Grigio because the popularity of the grape has led to an ocean of monotonous, industrially produced wines to be made and sold under that moniker, and they rarely even have to produce anything of note to sell.

This is not to say that other grape varieties suffer from the same issue. Pinot Noir, for example, can, from time to time, have a bit of an identity crisis. It can be fine and light with an incomparable purity or it can be heavy and plodding, overworked and overoaked. The real trick here is knowing which is which. Generally, wines from the “Old World” (Europe) are made in a very different style from wines from the “New World” (almost everywhere else).

Here is a great rule of thumb when deciding between “Old World” and “New World” wines:
Wines produced in the Old World are generally more reserved in style and less reliant on primary fruit flavors than wines produced in the New World.

A great (albeit general) analog here is the difference between European and American film: the former takes a bit more time to show its full potential, relying on subtext and character development while the latter will try to grab your attention immediately with a bombardment of explosions and chase scenes.

This can help you sort out what wines fit your particular wants and needs.

In Practice

Now, to make this all practical you are going to have to do a little work. The next time you go to your local wine shop or restaurant take a bit of a risk and ask someone for suggestions. But make sure you are very clear about what you want. If you usually opt for Pinot Grigio as your default light white wine, let them know that and ask for some suggestions of other wines that fit that profile. And be sure to tell them what you would like to spend.

The next step is keeping tabs on what you do or do not like. Make a mental or actual note. In time you will be able to come up with a good number of “weight appropriate” substitutions for your preferred wines.

Not only will this make you more savvy but it will also save you from paying the automatically higher priced “variety loyalty” sums imposed on the likes of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio , Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
There are no bargains to be had when brand or variety specificity is the driving force.


Cyrano has been in the wine business longer than he cares to admit. His hobbies include skeet shooting and poking fun at the “Natural Wine” movement.

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