Each person’s path of wine discovery is a unique and distinctive journey, but many people have been down this road and some tend to follow well-trodden ways. That’s not to say that this is the main path one must take in order to achieve wine-geek status, but it comes up fairly frequently when the topic comes up.
What was your path of discovery, or what stage are you at now? Find out, and join the discussion!
Step 1: Getting hooked
Once you’ve started to enjoy wines, you can’t help but get curious about what else might be out there. In the early stages, people will tend to stick close to home, trying other White Zins or other sweet whites, but there comes a point when the budding wine geek tries a glass of something different and POW! On goes the light bulb.
There are epiphany wines and then there are epiphany wines. These first wines tend to be a bit less memorable in many ways than the wines that tend to set up our future favorites, but they do hold the key to opening that door.
Step 2: Trying everything
However, once that door is opened, all bets are off. The beauty and hex that is wine, of course, is that there are so many styles and types of wine that simply finding the style or type you like may turn out impossible without a bit of effort. Once you find your groove though, you’ll find one wine after another that rings your bell!
The one wine will lead to another and before you know it, with advice from your wine-loving friends, you’ll be hopscotching all over the world of wines.
Step 3: Loving everything
Once you discover your style and are running around trying new wines, you’ll find that almost everything starts to taste good. It might be because of the oak treatment, or the particular varietal signature of a specific grape, or maybe the specific style of a flying winemaker, for whatever reason everything begins to taste great!
Once this happens you tend to look for something more.
Step 4: Loving power
Looking for something more generally leads to the "bigger is better" period of wine-geek evolution. Black wines, intense wines, packed with fruit -- these are wines that make you sit up and take notice, that hit you over the head and slap you a round a little bit! And you know what? You like it! Each new favorite wine is an experience that beats your previous high, until it doesn’t. Until a wine just gets to be too much: too intense, too alcoholic, too much!
Step 5: Loving complexity
Once you tire of getting smacked around by your wine -- but, of course, the occasional smack around continues to be a treat, right? -- you start looking for more in a different direction. The intensity of fruit and overt oakiness of many wines becomes monotonous and tiring. What else is there? Well, for starters, some complexity. The kind of complexity only grapes can give, and only grapes that aren’t cropped too low and extracted to hell in the winery at that.
Here is where you start to consider the differences between the new world and the old, not just the wines but also the techniques both in the vineyard and the cellar. This is also the point of no return, for if you have arrived here, your geek status is assured!
Step 6: Loving elegance and finesse
Now this is not to say that people who arrive here love only elegance and finesse (two words with rather nebulous meanings after all). But once you’ve experienced a certain number of wines you tend to find that what you really want are complex wines that are not tiring to drink.
In many circles that means Burgundy, in others Barolo and Barbaresco, but a fine argument can be made that wines like Beaujolais, Muscadet, and Etna Rosso meet these criteria just fine. So, let’s make sure we don’t make this into some financial argument where we all end up drinking expensive wines and see that as some badge of honor.
Step 7: Back to your roots
In many cases, the final step toward full-fledged wine geekdom involves a return to one’s roots. Simpler wines that work with one’s menu choices, easy drinking off-dry German wines, wines that make one go "yum" instead of "hmmm" -- these are all likely finds in the wine geek’s cellar.
In many cases this is simply the result of years of exploration and discovery, and many of these wines tend to be the simpler wines of the greatest producer. Who can resist the allure of a Village Burgundy or Barbera from the world’s greatest producer? Not a complete wine geek!
Wine Lovers - and Geeks
So, you're a wine geek, but what kind? Are you The Weasel? Or perhaps The Gourmand? And have you ever pulled a Nixon? Head to our slideshow Wine Lovers - and Geeks to find out.
Whichever kind of wine geek you are, if you want some tips on talking the talk, check out Wine Nose to learn more about wine descriptors, from caramel to cat's pee.