By Michael Eigen
Here we are again, facing Fall. Summer is starting to be a memory and we’ll be back in our routines soon enough. It’s time to talk about wine again. Let’s put away the rose until next summer and discuss how we’re all going to be better wine drinkers and better informed wine drinkers.
I feel like I write this sentence or a variation of it in every post I do but here it is again: learning about wine is not easy and there are no shortcuts. When I was a kid, I loved cars and learned a lot about them by
looking at pictures and reading articles in magazines. I vowed to know the type of engine for every car I could imagine. Eventually I did, in fact, know what type of engine was in every car. There were a few problems with this though. It was basically useless. I had no idea how an engine worked, I had no clue how to fix one or put one together, and I had never actually even driven a car. Sure, I knew the “window dressing” aspect of car engines but I knew nothing else. I had no in-depth knowledge, nor did I have any practical experience to reference. In essence, I had a bunch of useless information that could be used only in the most superficial of ways.
Why do I bring this anecdote of my childhood up? Well, if you can’t see where I’m going with it I’ll explain: Wine in this case can stand in for car engines. There are lots of guys (and yes it’s mostly guys) out there that can rattle off the names and scores for lots of different wines. They can also boast of their big cellars (compensating?) full of these collectible wines. At the end of the day though, we are left with the same issue that I faced as a 13 year old kid: they really have no clue about wine. Having lots of wine and knowing names and producers is no substitute for drinking lots of different wines and experiencing them empirically.
“That’s easy for you,” you say, “You work in the wine business”. You would be correct. It is easier for me to experience lots of wines, but did you also realize that it’s not necessary for me to do that? I can run a nice little store without ever trying a single wine. I can just stock the store based on scores and brands and be perfectly mundane in every aspect of my business. I choose not to take that route, instead immersing in the experience of trying lots of wine and putting the cool stuff on the shelf.
How does this relate to you and to tasting wine? I agree that it’s a little harder to have access to wine tasting, but it’s not impossible. I have met a bunch of people through wine groups that are avid wine drinkers that are not involved in the actual business of wine. They just love it and find a way to be around it.
If you want to become more knowledgeable just form a wine group. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just you and a few friends can get together and have a night of wine tasting. The tasting should be a little focused, and each time you get together it should be something a little different. I’ll even put together the agenda for you. These tastings won’t make you a wine expert in one session but what they will do is get you started on the road to wine knowledge. Just the act of tasting begins the process of understanding what makes a wine good. It will take a while but as I said at the beginning wine is not easy. It takes work but at least the work is fun.