Wine Talk

Snooth User: spikedc

Students and Wine !

Posted by spikedc, Sep 25, 2012.

In Wales at the moment on a short break settling my daughter into her second year at Swansea University.
Yesterday I popped into Supermarket in Swansea and thought I would buy a sneaky few bottles before the 25% off offer finishes. The store was jammed packed with first year Students and their parents stocking up on essentials. Whilst looking down the wine aisle it did make me smile at some of the comments i was overhearing especially from the students, a couple of lads were trying to find a cheap wine for a dinner and I could hear them saying...........
" I haven't a clue about wine all i know is i was told don't buy Australian it's all rubbish, It's got to be cheap, maybe we should go French but i don't know anything about French wine"
They then called what sounded like their Mum and ended up buying a bottle of Hardys Cab even though they were dismissing Australian a few minutes earlier.
I heard quite a few of these type conversations and had to jump in. I managed to steer another group of students to try some Chilean wine which I've always found excellent, even better when on offer. I also persuaded someone to try the French 'Vouvray' which again i've tried and enjoyed. And finally, as was said to me,  "Students have a lot more to learn than getting a degree."


Reply by Jake Pippin, Sep 25, 2012.

Glad to hear you steered some students to try Chilean wine. I agree with you, I've always found Chilean wines to be excellent and a great value as well. Plus, being 2 years out of my undergrad program i stand by the statement that I have much more to learn that just getting a degree.

What did you end up purchasing?



Jakob Pippin

Reply by EMark, Sep 25, 2012.

Excellent work, Spike.  It is always good to pay it forward.

Reply by GregT, Sep 25, 2012.

"I haven't a clue about wine all i know is i was told don't buy Australian it's all rubbish, It's got to be cheap, maybe we should go French but i don't know anything about French wine"

That sums it up in a nutshell. Spend some time in a store and you hear that all day.

You did good.

Sometimes  you just have to step in. Even when you're not invited. I remember years ago how I'd always appreciate some opinion, ANY opinion, as long as it was based on personal experience and the person had some examples to illustrate the point.

And I truly hope you set them straight about Australian wine being all rubbish!

Reply by spikedc, Sep 26, 2012.

Jakob - Bought some New Zealand Riesling & Pinot Noir, French Picpoul De Pinet & Vouvray and a couple of 'rubbish Australian' Shiraz's..

Funny enough most of the students I chatted to were very receptive to my advice and we ended up having a small discussion about the wonders of drinking good wine and how you don't have to spend a fortune to find some pretty decent stuff.

Greg - yes I did put them straight on Australian wine .

Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 26, 2012.

What, Australian wine isn't all rubbish?  This wine critic convinced me otherwise. "This is a wine for laying down and avoiding," indeed.

I hope you pointed out that they could get a Rioja Reserva for $20 (or its equivalent in pounds) that was as good as they could hope for.  And that picking up some oddball grapes--I've never seen expensive picpoul, for one--means really good wine for not much money. 

Do Commonwealth wines get a tax break?  Otherwise, seems that there would be a lot of wines from the Continent that would be cheaper to ship; heaven knows there are really decent French wines available in supermarkets in Paris for about 5 Euros.

Anyway, mission accomplished:  You can't just write something off because it comes from Oz, or anywhere else.  And probably they were pretty jazzed to try something else next time.

Reply by ps, Sep 29, 2012.

Out of curiosity - how did all of you learn about wine?  Did you start out like the students spikedc overheard?  Did you take courses, read up on wine or simply start tasting are recording your reaction?  

Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 29, 2012.

I started a lot earlier than those students.  Somewhere else I went on at length, but I grew up in Northern Cal with parents who drank wine.  We took day trips to Napa before it got out of hand (even today the Mondavi tour probably ranks as one of the foundations of what I know), also Sonoma, but less.  We had friends who also drank (better) wine.  By 15 I was pretentiously carrying around a card with a vintage chart on the back, and I was allowed to suggest wines to my parents in restaurants.  We had wine with Sunday dinner--the kids had tiny glasses--so it wasn't ever tempting to drink bad alcohol to get drunk.

 I never stopped tasting and (duh!) drinking wine from my home state.  When I visit wineries, I ask lots of questions.  Before, I would ask questions like why punchdowns were so important and why they had to be by hand.  Now I ask much geekier stuff.  Don't be afraid to ask--every time I thought I was being a pain, the winemaker later came over to me and started another conversation.  Sometimes it even resulted in tasting a special bottle.  Just don't try to sound like a know it all, because winemakers know so much stuff we don't , and don't hog the conversation, but trust me that lots of times everyone is just standing there and your question gets them more interested and breaks the ice. The occasional special taste or (rare) free bottle has lessened my wife's embarrassment.

I have always kept my eyes open for the wine column when reading the papers, when those were around. When I branched out from my Cali wine base a few years back, I did more reading to see what would interest me most.  I really like The Wine Lover's Companion for a convenient, portable, easy to read guide to varieties, regions, nomenclature.  I also like, for its sense of fun and orientation towards the grapes themselves, Oz Clarke's Grapes and Wines. Other folks like the Oxford Companion by Jancis Robinson and the World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis (again).  You could easily fill rooms with books, but I think the money is better spent drinking wine and traveling to where it is made.  The latter is a luxury, but the former is really the whole point, after all:  Drink wine, enjoy it, see what it has to teach you. 

And, of course, hang out here and elsewhere--I learn something from folks here every time I am on.  After all, there are 2000 varieties that can make decent wine, and I bet I haven't even tried 300 of them yet. 

Unless you count tutorials by the winemakers I know, I haven't taken any classes, but  would also count tasting GdP's wine and eating dinner with fellow Snoothers as an educational experience of the best sort.

Reply by duncan 906, Sep 30, 2012.

You have to remember that we all had to start somewhere and that we were all once young and foolish

Reply by spikedc, Sep 30, 2012.

I remember when i first joined Snooth, i was a little out of my depth and now i feel more comfortable advising and talking wine.

Mainly thanks to you guys but if I have to give one piece of advice it would be to drink as many different Varieties as you can, the only way to learn about wine is to drink it and enjoy, simple really.

I've never looked back since!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 1, 2012.

spike just said it all in the minimum.  Nothing replaces trying everything you can.

Reply by ps, Oct 1, 2012.

Do you write notes when you taste different wines or just remember?  

Reply by Wai Xin Chan, Oct 2, 2012.

It is, indeed, very easy for someone to dismiss a region as crappy producers by a simple perception, therefore what you have done was important to encourage people to try out things they have not tried or have negative feelings about. Similarly I have met people who spoke ill about some particular region and influence new wine drinkers to follow suit with his preference.

For new drinkers, I often advise them to choose bottles with back labels detailing the wine making, the grape varieties and the aromas associated with it. It gives them a better perspective and aid in the notes taking.

Quoting a line from the Society of Wine Educator training text, "It is the consummate role of the wine professional to enlighten the novice, to encourage the advocate and to partner with peers." 

Hope everyone agrees. :-)

Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 2, 2012.

I don't often take notes while drinking.  If I'm with a group and tasting a lot of wines, as we did last year with Greg's wines, I'll take notes and, if I've actually swallowed a lot of that wine, promptly lose them.  I did manage to keep my VinItaly notes, but never transferred them anywhere--I just wasn't going to become the expert on Morellino.  I tried keeping a book in the pre-internet days of the early '90s (I know, the Internet existed, but nothing like this) but we would misplace the book and forget to write things.  I also felt really pretentious.  Age has a way of wearing away your concerns about pompousness and making you, well, pompous.

More likely I will write something up later in the evening if I was drinking wine with dinner, sometimes even a few days later, and usually those notes are entered as TNs on CellarTracker when I remove a wine from inventory.  (It's no secret to the proprietors of this site that I do that--I've expressed my fond wish that the two sites could cooperate again, since this site has better participation and education and CT has, so far, simpler cellar tools.) A lot of what I think of wines ends up in the "Whatcha drinking tonight" thread. If we do a VT here, I put my notes on here; I also tend to put notes about wines I have had in restaurants or at other people's houses on here, if I make notes at all.  (It's rare I have wine at someone else's house that really stands out--the downside of being the neighborhood wine geek.) On the whole, though, I don't make notes while drinking because I take the approach that wine is one of many sensory experiences that we need to be aware of in the present. If wine has taught me anything, it has been to be aware of smells, sounds and sights in the present, making a walk anywhere an adventure. 

If my job was tasting and recommending wine, a la Eric Guido and GdP, then it would be different.  And others here will have different opinions.

I  like WXC's advice about back labels.  I generally seek out that information, but new drinkers may not be aware that, for example, a Cotes du Rhone could be all grenache, all syrah (somewhat rare), or a combination of grenache, syrah and mourvedre (usually), with wildly varying amounts of each.  Even a California varietally-labeled wine can contain up to 15% of other varieties of grape and the choices of which grapes can make noticeable differences.  However, that information is often not on the bottle, but thanks to the web (producers' sites and magazines--I find eRobertParker good for this) you can buy the bottle, write down your impressions, then look at the grapes and the winemaker's tasting notes.  Which are often hype, so don't feel bad if you can't taste the garrigue or "minerality."

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