Collecting wine and enjoying wine are what being a chef is to being a cook: you end up with the same result, but the process is entirely different. But both the collector and the chef aspire to their craft at a higher level and the result is a personal expression of that practice. Both also take a lot of learning, time, and cost to refine and realize your goal. In that light, hopefully I can lend some insight, experience, and wisdom to make sure you’re getting the most out of any bottle you buy, collect, or enjoy.
To get the most out of that given bottle, it is about finding the right time, place, and reason—factors that are extremely personal. There is no prescription to getting that ideal expression of a wine even though a culmination of drinking windows, scores, and advice come along with most any bottle. The colloquial conversation is one that demands age, cuisine, and circumstance that may not matter to you. But this is the fine wine journey and the thrill of it is a set of trial-and-errors, growth, and fresh perspectives that keep us all looking to pop that next cork.
In an effort to help every collector or casual wine drinker find their voice (and their next memorable wine experience) I would offer a few tips that have seemed to stay true to me in my wine journey:
- Find something to appreciate in any wine
This does not mean you like every wine. But keep in mind that it is much easier to speak down to a wine than to be able to have perspective and insight. Can you identify the intention and nuance of an elegant Burgundy and a massive Chateauneuf at the same time? To turn your back on a category, deem it “undrinkable,” or stereotype a region limits your horizons. Knowing you don’t want to drink it every day goes a long way as well.
- Take pride in what you enjoy
Because wine is so subjective, the more you get into it, the harder it is to plant your flag and own a position. There’s no need to be a contrarian, but to understand that no one can author your experience of a wine is key to being able to express, find, and develop your preferences. Put it this way – if you’re tasting in a group and someone says it smells like baked strawberries, it will leave an impression that will help you identify that sensation as well. When all of those people say they also can’t stand the wine, can you avoid that impression taking root as well?
- The most important thing about wine
Why do you buy wine? Why do you collect it? For me, it is a combination of community and indulgence – the combination of great friends, food, and laughter is the framework in which I want to pop my best bottles. And I collect so that hopefully the friends, food, laughter, and wine only get better over the years. But the most important thing about the wine is what it means to you – this could mean rarity, scores, press, value, age, obscurity, definition, power, deliciousness, depth, stature, elegance…nearly anything. Finding your collection’s raison d’être is the journey and exploration of buying and collecting fine wine.
The spirit of On the Trail is “to bring you, our valued customer, out on the trail with us.” My trail through the wine world is that of pursuing a modest collection of wines that encompass everyday values, prized collectibles, and most importantly treasured wine experiences. Hopefully some of my input can help you find the next rewarding chapter in your collection.