Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Learning about wine

People often ask me where I go to learn about wine. There are all sorts of ways to learn about wine, but here are three. The first takes ages, but you learn a lot. The second takes a moderate amount of time and you learn a moderate amount; and the third takes almost no time, and you learn a little.

  1. Focusing (for years) I learn very little if my drinking habits are all over the map. When I want to become serious about a type or class of wine, I make a point of drinking that wine frequently for several years. For example, I spent about four years drinking mainly Rioja, about four years drinking mostly California Cabernet Sauvignon, about five years drinking bordeaux, about five years drinking Zinfandel, and about three years concentrating on sweet wines. I have had shorter periods with a focus on Pinot Noir, Champagne, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Loire white wines, sherry, and wines from Alsace. (This focus also means that there are serious gaps in my knowledge!) But the real point is that you learn to trust your palate -- a good wine surely is a wine that appeals to your taste.
  2. Wine Spectator The Wine Spectator is a splendid publication. They review thousands of wines and provide balanced, fair, and accurate descriptions. I have been reading it almost cover to cover for over twenty years. I must admit that I am a little ambivalent about their devotion to scoring every single wine, but that is a subject for another posting. In December every year, they produce a list of the 100 most exciting wines of the year. Getting that list at the end of November is something I look forward to every year.
  3. Berry Brothers and Rudd Berry Brothers and Rudd is a wonderful London wine merchant. They have a very knowledgeable staff, a good list, and they keep their wine well. On their website, they have a quiz that I take that occasionally to make sure I can still recall the facts. (Actually, this website is a wonderful place to learn about wine in other ways as well.) Berry's also has a shop in Terminal 3 at London airport!
But the one point that I cannot emphasize enough -- you learn about wine with your mouth. Reading and listening are good things to do, but the proof of the vintage is in the drinking!
Please add your comments about how you learn about wine!

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