There are a few things that we can all do to expand our vision of the wine world. Things that are easy and yet from which we will be able to reap ample rewards. Move outside your comfort zone, take a risk and check out wines you think you hate. Push yourself and share the experiences!
These things can make each of us better versed in wine, but to a greater point, they can raise the level of communal wine knowledge which we share. This knowledge base, if shared, would help us all make better informed decisions about what we buy, when to drink what we buy, and how to advise all the people who ask for help. So listen up to the five things you should do this year.
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1. Join the Wine Century Club
Why? I am generally not a club joiner, so telling you to join one comes as a bit of a stretch for me. Regardless, the Wine Century Club is one club worth joining.
The premise is simple, taste 100 varietals to join. 100 varietals may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t, and while variety isn’t for everyone, it is one of the most fascinating pieces of the wine puzzle. One of the reasons we obsess about wine is simply because there is so much to obsess about. Find out what the funky varietals are and which might turn you on. You might be surprised at what you find. Be sure to keep notes so you can add to your own knowledge base. Which brings me to…
2. Share Your Tasting Notes
This is self-serving, but so what? I’m a proponent of saving one’s notes for several reasons and that’s why Snooth works the way it does, but that does not obviate the point here.
By sharing your tasting notes, you not only save the information for yourself, but also share your impressions with other like-minded folks, allowing them to get a better idea of what a wine is like before buying or drinking it. Perhaps you might even find drinking buddies along the way!
By recording what you like about a wine and then comparing one note to others you’ve written, you can begin to see patterns emerge- patterns that can help guide you towards other wines that you probably will enjoy. It’s also fascinating and revealing to watch your palate evolve!
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3. Taste a Bottle of $35 Wine
Some wines are simply more expensive than others. I’m not here to tell you that more expensive wines are better, because that is patently not the case, but at certain price points, both the average quality and style of wines do change. If you’re used to buying $20 wines, you should splurge and try something around the $35 mark once in a blue moon just to see what the additional money buys.
Conversely, if you’re routinely buying $50 bottles of wine, taking a flyer on the occasional $20 bottle should be part of your routine. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results. Less expensive wines are generally fruitier, less oaky and ready to drink on release. To my palate, they are also often easier to pair with food.
Please remember that these are not rules. I’m suggesting you try these wines so that you can make up your own mind about these things, but these are certainly my impressions.
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4. Taste a Bottle of Aged Wine
Mature wine does not have to be super expensive. In fact, you can find plenty of worthy examples right around the $35 mark.
Some grapes age more quickly than others, like Barbera for example. Though these wines often just drift away, at their best they take on the character of aged Piedmontese wines after about a decade.
Zinfandel is another inexpensive wine that ages surprisingly well. It turns into a somewhat anonymous aged red wine more than anything else, but will give you a good idea of what happens to fruit and structure in the bottle over time. That’s all we want to get at here. Learning what happens to wine in the cellar can help you figure out when to drink the wines that are actually in your cellar!
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5. Taste Some Natural Wine
Natural wine is a construct, a name that people have used to help define their approaches to wine. The problem is that there is no official definition of what makes natural wine natural, so natural wine advocates tend to bash one another to promote their definition.
This is sad because the idea of natural wine in almost all of its guises is a good one. We owe it to ourselves to become familiar with these wines- not what they are (let the geeks hash that out), but what they taste like.
The wine that used to be an accident has today become a scientific/industrial product. Somewhere in between lies some ideal. That ideal may or may not be to your liking, but you should really investigate what’s going on. For example, the use of indigenous yeasts is increasingly in vogue. I love the way these naturally fermented wines express themselves, more complexity, less fruit and a different texture all await you!
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Want to Learn More?
Check out our thoughts on wine philanthropy in How to Start a Wine Collection!