It is human nature to sort information. Pattern recognition and feature extraction are innate abilities, and organizing bits of information is how we make sense of the world. Finding the common denominator is one way of sorting information in many different fields. Wine is one of those fields where this comes in handy. Wine is sorted by old world and new world, noting the differences of more acidic and less fruit forward for the former and higher alcohol and bigger flavor for the latter. It is one of the easiest steps in identifying a wine. Once it is sorted into old world or new world, the wine can then be analyzed further to determine its region.
Grapes can be sorted by type such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot. They can be sorted by acidity, tannins and other structural characteristics. They can also be sorted by flavors. What is the common denominator of Pinot Noir, Grenache and Cabernet Franc? They all have red fruit aromas; cherry, strawberry, cranberry. What is the common denominator of Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Muscat? They are all aromatic grapes. What is the common denominator of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo? They are all heavy-bodied, tannic wines. What is the common denominator of Barbera, Chenin Blanc, and Riesling? They are all acidic wines.
As scary as he was, Sal Russo gave me the best advice for figuring out what sells. Every Monday I took my selling report to the stores and pulled out my best selling dresses and looked at them. Just as Sal had advised me, I found a common denominator, whether is was wool crepe, a scalloped collar, ruching, or batik print. There was always some factor, some small detail that they all had in common. I practiced the same routine with my worst sellers. That was equally enlightening.
Studying wine can, also, be enhanced by finding the common denominator. It is much easier to master information when it is sorted. And finding those small details in character, flavor, region or structure that define the grape and make the wine memorable, greatly enhances the learning process.