I’ve been on a warp speed mission to learn everything I can about wine, and here’s why. A few years ago, my husband Nick started making wine. I wish I could say that we chucked the city life and turned a dream into a small, unimaginably picturesque and charming vineyard, but alas, he started his career as a vintner in a garage with a Wine Kit.
Nick soon realized that he could upgrade his vintages by degassing them. Degassing is a process that remove excess gases (mostly CO2 ) that remain in the wine as a by-product of fermentation. He succeeded, which gave birth to VinoVinti – an innovative wine accessory that degasses wine in the bottle. Friends, family and total strangers loved the results so much that we decided to enter the marketplace.
I quickly concluded that if I was going to market a wine accessory, I’d better know something more about wine. At that point, about all I could say about it was that I liked some and did not like others.
Needless to say, I threw myself into the task with enthusiasm. First, I took a couple of wine tasting classes to get the basics. Then I began an independent study which involved sipping innumerable varietals and vintages – my favorite part of the job! And then there were the videos: feature films and documentaries starring wine, watched from my favorite chair, glass in hand. And naturally, I spent countless hours entranced on the world wide web…there’s so much information!
And what have I learned?
Even on warp speed, wine education is a journey. It is far more than mastering a new vocabulary, infinite details, and expert opinions.
Here are some of my more important discoveries:
• The wine world is not filled with snobs. In fact, most wine experts want to share their knowledge and enjoyment of wine with you.
• It pays to be adventurous. Not every bottle will be great, but every bottle can teach you something – even if it’s what not to drink – and you might find an outstanding bottle for $7.99!
• Most red and white wines benefit from decanting or aeration. Conduct your own taste test. Experiment. Who doesn’t want their wine to taste better?
• A trusted wine store can be your best friend. They can help you find just the right wine for any occasion and introduce you to treasures.
The more you learn, the more you’ll enjoy wine.
Here is what I recommend:
• Education. Take an introductory wine tasting class. It’s a delight of the senses. You will learn how to hold a wine glass, appreciate the color, breathe in and identify aromas, how to sip and really taste the wine. The very best part is meeting other wine novices and the inevitable mirth that ensues. These classes are usually reasonably priced and well worth the effort.
• Exploration. Start exploring the wines of the world. It will not be hard to get friends and lovers to join you – wine is, after all, a social drink! Be systematic, picking a variety you like, and then a bottle or two from several different regions. If you live in US, I’d select at least one each from California, France and South America. You can turn this into a lively evening with friends, asking them each to bring a bottle to share, compare and contrast. Discover each region’s signature qualities. Note your preferences. As you expand your wine education, become more adventurous, and develop your palate, your preferences will surely change and your appreciation will grow.
I love films and there are a lot of good ones about wine out there – factual, fictional and in between. I’d like to suggest two in particular. Bottle Shock is a 2008 comedy-drama guaranteed to make you laugh. It tells the story of how a wine from California defeated a French wine in the 1976 “Judgment of Paris” wine competition. Chateau Montelena, the triumphant winery, still offers some pretty awesome wines.
SOMM, an excellent 2013 documentary, follows four young men as they prepare to take the most difficult and prestigious of all wine tests – the Court of Master Sommeliers “Master Sommelier Exam.” Humorous and emotional, it shows how these guys will do almost anything to pass. Remember to savor a glass or two while watching this one.
I don’t need to say much about the internet. Just know there are more wine blogs than there are wine bottles on the shelf at your local grocer. Find a couple that speak to you and follow them. YouTube videos run the gambit from snobbery to silliness. And on the serious side are scientific articles and industry reports. Did you know that in 2014 America consumed more wine than any other country?
Ultimately, I have learned to slow down and enjoy the journey. Wine is here to help us do just that.