I smiled as I overheard that at a wine tasting in 2006, when I could still lurk around in anonymity. I started this blog in January of 2005 merely as a way to keep notes on the wines I was tasting at the time, and I was tasting a lot. If there was a free tasting somewhere in the city, I was there, giving myself a quick and dirty self-education in the world of fermented grapes.
I had no desire at the time to be well-known, so I just used the nickname Benito. I'm really Ben Carter, but the name Ben is surprisingly difficult to use around the world. Benjamin is a Hebrew name that almost never gets translated, and besides, if anyone calls me that I feel like I'm a little kid getting in trouble. Nearly every language has a phonetic "ben" that means something different, and gets confusing in conversation. So in Italy I just started using Benito, the diminutive of Benedicto. Suddenly nobody had a problem saying my name, and then I discovered that it worked better with all sorts of languages. Two extra syllables, and I don't have to repeat myself a dozen times.
I stayed mostly anonymous in 2005 and 2006, until local readers here in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee finally figured it out. So I added my real name and contact information, and discovered that writing is a lot more fun when you're out in the open. I kept the Benito name just because it was fun, and served as a good brand for the site. Now, back in 2005, there were maybe a hundred wine blogs, and most of those are dead at this point. Today there's well over a thousand, and that's just the English language blogs. There's a similar explosion in content happening around the world. I'm in an odd position that I'm still fairly young--I started the blog at the age of 28--but that due to my tenure I'm one of the old veterans. Joe Herrig over at Suburban Wino called me a "silverback", a title I wear with pride, and not just because of the grey hairs that are beginning to appear in my beard.
I don't claim to be a wine expert, but I've tried a lot of wines, taken a lot of notes, and studied up on the subject to better understand what's in the glass. I stopped counting around 3,000 bottles, but here are some stats that display my interest in tasting the wide world of wine. I've tried wines from 27 countries, 16 states in the US, and over 150 different grapes.
Ben Folds said it best in his classic "My Philosophy" from the 1995 Ben Folds Five album.
Go ahead you can laugh all you want
I got my philosophy
Keeps my feet on the ground
And I trust it like the ground
That's why my philosophy
Keeps me walking when I'm falling down
I never had a mission statement or plan for this thing, but I've developed a philosophy about wine over the years:
- I'm willing to try anything from anywhere. I can't promise that I'll like it, but I'll give it a fair shot. More often than not this has led to a lot of fascinating aromas and flavors. Other times... let's just say that was a learning experience, Belarus.
- I'm not a collector. I don't invest in Bordeaux futures and I don't have cases of vintage Burgundy sleeping in a cave somewhere. I have nothing against that kind of wine interest, but it's just not my scene.
- I'm not a wine snob, but I don't try to promote mixing $2 Chardonnay with Sprite as somehow better than Dom Pérignon. Crass anti-elitism is annoying as well. I'll stand up for my beloved Cavas and Proseccos, but I can appreciate why serious Champagne costs as much as it does.
- Wine needs to be enjoyed with food, and vice versa. Whenever possible I try to match a wine with a dish, or at least suggest something that would work. This beverage wasn't meant to be experienced in a vacuum.
- More later!