Grow your Wine Knowledge Part 1
Have you ever wondered how people become ‘experts’ in wine?
Perhaps you’ve wished you can be the person everyone turns to when the wine list arrives at the table in a nice restaurant. Maybe you want to be the one that chooses the wine a restaurant decides to have on its list? There are many people who have learned about wine for much of their life, it became a passion and then a career, and in the last 30 years, formal wine education has been an essential tool to demonstrate your knowledge and commitment.
Of course, wine know-how is not just gleaned in a classroom, for some of us it’s an integral part of our lives. A fascination with the people, the land and the traditions around a wine are just as important as the nectar that resides in the glass.
So how do you start this journey of discovery?
The first thing to realise is that it is a journey without a definite destination or an end. You will never, ever know everything about wine... Ever.
For me that is part of the attraction of wine. I learn something new regularly. I might read something in a magazine, look something up in one of my many wine books, or hear something from a friend, colleague or student. I remember my barber, who was originally from Iran, telling me of making wine with his father in his village in the northern Zagros Mountains, where wine had been made for about 7,500 years. They were using such ancient methods, that have probably changed little over scores of generations, and I was captivated. You never know where the next piece of wine knowledge is going to come from!
Here are a few tips to get your wine journey moving and getting you well on your way to being a wine pro.
Tip 1: Try something new
Open your mind and try something new as often as you can. If you get in a rut (it happens to us all) safe choices are the enemy of discovery. The important thing to remember is that wine is an adventure and stepping out of your vinous comfort zone can quickly expand your knowledge and excite your tastebuds.
Tip 2: Make a note
When you are tasting wine, try your hardest to make a quick note. What does it smell like, how does it feel on the palate and which flavours do I taste? You can do this on an app like Vivino or Delectable, or more simply in a small notebook you can keep with you. Some are printed for quick wine notes like the De Long Wine Tasting notebook, and it fits in a jacket pocket or handbag with ease.
Tip 3: Read about wine
Magazines like Decanter, Noble Rot and Wine Spectator are an enjoyable way to send a half hour here and there reading articles, interviews, reviews and news from the world of the vine. There have been more books written about wine than you can read in a lifetime so grab one that interests you, maybe a style of wine or a region, there are plenty to choose from. There are also great websites and blogs out there too, so following and reading up online can be a nice way to broaden your horizons as well.
Tip 4: Go to tastings
Get together with a wine group/club of like-minded people and have regular meet-ups to try and talk about wine. You can go to some ticketed, themed tasting events locally or attend one of the large wine expos like the London Wine Festival or Decanter tasting events. At any of these events you will get to taste wines you may never be able to buy and talk to some great people who share your passion.
Tip 5: Keep your eyes and ears open
There will often be people who have something exciting to say or interesting wine to taste. Many people have a particular passion or knowledge about a certain region or country, perhaps with a deeper understanding than many an ‘expert’. Keeping yourself open to others’ knowledge and experience is a great way to expand your horizons.
Tip 6: Become certified
There are lots of official wine courses that have exams and are recognised around the world. They are not just for wine industry professionals, but appeal to a wide group of vinous types. Organisations like WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust), Wine Scholar Guild and Court of Master Sommeliers all offer education and certification for those that want to build their ‘official’ wine knowledge and progress their wine-related career.
In my next blog post I’ll go through the education options in much more detail for the enthusiast through to the seasoned pro. Until then keep sipping and growing your wine world.
Part 2 coming soon...