Updated: Apr 18
Where do I start?
You may have found yourself floundering in this stalemate for years. This is where I come in and start taking no prisoners, a la Scott Stevens circa 1994. No, Scott Stevens circa 2000. Maybe just Scott Stevens in general. Better get used to the tangents and sidebars, because that's pretty much what most of your wine education is going to look and feel like. And if you don't know Scott Stevens or any other wine-related (or not wine-related) term or person, fucking google it.
Where do I start? I'm tired just thinking about it. But not really. The best thing about trying to get into wine is that the early days of your wisdom development won't suck. It's not like when you tried to learn how to play golf that one summer so you could go play with your clients. Everyone sucks at golf, and they rarely get any better. Because they keep doing the same thing. But you won't do that. Will you?
I kinda feel like golf and wine are similar in the sense that in adulthood, people try to learn about them so they can "impress" or "schmooze" in the business world. It's a little ironic, because most people are so bad at these things and couldn't impress a gad-damn soul, never mind be so suave during the process that AN ACTUAL PROSPECTIVE CLIENT or boss would be impress by one's skills. But this is where it gets interesting.
Why is golf so effective as a business tool? It's effective because it has a way of exposing an asshole very quickly. It exposes a person's awareness or lack thereof, very quickly. When you go to play golf with someone, you don't really care if they're good. You care if they're cool. If you can easily spend 5 hours with them and not get annoyed. Are they good at conversation? Can they laugh at themselves when shit goes sideways? Are they savvy and aware enough to not step on your line? A round of golf is just an outdoor dinner party where everyone eats hot dogs while walking and wears dorky shirts and khakis.
And wine. The unbearable pretension. My god. Wanna see primal fear? Get a group of accountants out on a business retreat where they all go out to a nice place for dinner and decide they're gonna loosen up. I don't know if there is anything to it, although I am sure there is, but I find it interesting that the word "pretentious" and "pretend" both start with "preten".
8 people sitting around a table at dinner and the wine document arrives. Someone has to look through it and decide on a wine. The horror. The violence. And many at this table with pretend to like wine, pretend to, well, have had wine before. "Yes, I've had wine, it tasted exactly like this!", they might exclaim. Only they won't.
I think it's funny that I'd rather drink a bottle of wine with someone who was interested in wine but had barely touched it before than someone whom had somehow got swept into the abominable social custom of ordering, tasting, pretending to know what you're tasting for, approving, second-guessing, making a remark to someone as if to help them understand the wine, since they clearly do.
Kinda like golf. If you show up, keep up, ask honest questions when you don't know something or are unsure how to proceed, people will like playing with you. They don't care if you're any good. If you show up, play slow, say things like, "I never usually play this bad," throw clubs, are a dickhead to the cart girl, whine when you miss putts or slice drives, people won't care to play with you, even if you are good at golf.
And this is the wine world. It seems big from the outside. Seems fancy. Seems special. Seems like it's hard to penetrate. Well, it's not. I am proof of that. I knew squat about wine. I still don't know THAT much.
But I showed up. I stated my interest. Every time I drank something, I read about it. I thought about where it was from, and I read about that region. I fuckin' googled it. I'd volunteer to do tastings for sales reps. I couldn't wait to pass on a little of my research to someone who wanted to taste a wine and incorporate some information into what otherwise would have been a classic instance of, "Well, do I like this? And do I like the label?"
I found that when people got a snippet of information about a wine that they wouldn't have found by themselves, that it changed their experience. It didn't change the wine. But it did change their approach. It changed the experience from the "do I like this and is the label cute?" approach, to "let me think about what I just heard while I meditate on how it made this particular wine taste". The latter, even if the wine sucks, is always interesting, always stimulating. And that's where I began.
Go get a bottle. Any bottle. Right now. Take it home, or order it in a restaurant. Read the entire label, top to bottom, front to back. If you don't know what something is, google it. Or ask me. Seriously. Let's talk. Find out where it's from. Find out who the company is that made it. Find out if the brand on the label is an actual winery. Find out if the company who made it is family-owned or publicly traded or somewhere in between. Find out what year it was made. Find out what people are saying about that vintage in that area. Write a frickin' report on that wine. It honestly does not matter if it's a bottle of Barefoot Moscato or '82 Mouton Rothschild. Do it now. Love it now.
You'll immediately know more about wine.