My discomfort with 'whites'

Let me explain myself really quickly before this starts to get weird. When I say I’m uncomfortable around ‘whites’, I’m talking about white wines.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dissect that. My affinity for red wines is undeniable. Give me a red any day, come rain or shine, and I’ll happily sniff and sip at those berry aromas.

 Notice how easily ‘reds’ rolled off of my tongue. Without any need for the colour to be followed up with the word ‘wine’. But the same cannot be said for white wines. It’s something I’ve noticed since joining the wine community on Instagram. When people innocently ask ‘Do you prefer whites or reds?’, it’s usually easy because my answer is inevitably ‘reds’. Except, when I see a question like ‘Would you prefer to pair a white or red with a light fish?’, I cannot bring myself to just reply ‘white’...even now, I feel the need to add the word ‘wine’. White wine pairs better with a light fish.

A part of me thinks it hilarious that I’m compelled to double down on my description when the topic is so clear. But a part of me knows that I’m a product of growing up in a country where inequality is rife, and where white was historically synonymous with the preferred race. We’ve moved on...a little..but we’re still hyper aware of race in South Africa. Don’t get me wrong, within my age group and our diverse circle of friends, we’re very comfortable calling a spade a spade. Political correctness is frowned upon in my crowd of comrades. We revel in our variety - sometimes astounded by our differences, yet respectful and intrigued by them. So why, in my unfiltered freedom, do I still feel awkwardness when specifying the colour of a wine?

The thing is, it’s not about the colour of the wine. (Bear with me. I promise this isn’t going to conclude with wine being a metaphor for life). White is white...albeit usually lemon, or straw, or gold...I digress. Assigning a colour is not the issue. It’s about stating a preference for a colour with a loaded history in this country that makes my back stiffen. ‘Is the wine red or white?’ has no effect on my posture. But ‘Do you prefer red or white’ suddenly has me anticipating 3 moves ahead as though I were some chess grandmaster assessing the board. (For the record, I still don’t know the difference between a King or a Queen). If I answer white, will my audience understand that I’m referring to the wine and only the wine? Could an eavesdropper misconstrue the tail end of a conversation? And do I really actually want to choose white? 

Welcome to the world of a post Apartheid South African xennial! Overthinking the repercussions of what we say and do, in a world that doesn’t really care what you say or do. They’re just words, right? Yet...a part of me wonders if my preference for reds has anything to do with my aversion to stating that I like whites. White wines, of course.

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  • Grzegorz says:

    Well, well, well, I was reading that article with growing attention and initially I was thinking that is absolutely something new for me, looking at the wine through the prism of colour and its cultural, historical and even human context. White? red? rose? it seems to doesn't matter. It seems... but is it really?

    After reading, I realised that even in my exprience colour of the wine has own meaning. In my country, we are still absolute rookies in the world of wine, not many my countrymates drink wine, so I think it is a quite typical, that when level of knowledge is rather low there are a lot of different stereotypes. One of them, which was keeping strong, not that long ago, was a folk wisdom: that only red wines deserve to be considered as an one and only kind of real, big wines. Whites, roses, were on the bottom of the wine class as a something imperfect. (can we cold that as a wine's racism?)

    So maybe, because I'm very often irrationally rebel without a reason and I don't feel well in the crowd of people and I don't like go with the flow and I always side with the discriminated... this way my love to whites (wines of course) was born?

    • capeofgoodwine says:

      Wines, of course! He he he!

      I'd never noticed that I do this before joining instagram...but I've always done it. I suspect a few South Africans do the same thing.

      You're so right about the colour of the wine having preconceptions. There are way too many rosé jokes and chardonnay jokes out there to pretend that we don't have generalisations about wine choices. But, it's rebels like you who show us that making these assumptions are silly. And shows our own ignorance. I love nothing more than to tease a man about drinking a sweet cocktail - but secretly I'm hoping that he shrugs his shoulders and just owns it. We all have different palates, and it would be very boring if we all drank the same things.

      I've always liked big bold red wines, strong coffees, and strange flavours...and with a little learning, I now know that it's because I don't have as many tastebuds and so I don't have a very sensitive palate. Now that I know this, I admire super tasters who prefer the smoother and sweeter things in life!