In The Beginning




It may be apropos that the début of a column sparks the beginning of a wine collection. Wine collectors emerge at a specific moment in time: a great bottle by a collector friend, a trip to Napa, Burgundy or Tuscany, or the purchase of a home with an empty cellar. A cellar hates a vacuum. I’ve seen a lot of mistakes and many moments of brilliance in my time with seasoned collectors around the world that I’ll begin to share.


When starting a collection, tasting is the most effective way to learn. Reading helps but as with travel, you don’t learn about Rome until you’ve been there. After spending at least a year attending tasting events and buying your favorites you’ll soon see where your palate lies. Pick up at least six of each wine, or a case preferably. Spread the consumption out over a number of years to see at what stage of its life you most enjoy a wine. People often ask when the best time is to drink a certain Bordeaux. The answer depends on whether you like them youthful and fruity, old and nuanced, or somewhere in between.


At the beginning of your education your palate will likely fall in the “fruit forward” wines. Specifically, those from warmer climates that are big, round and juicy. Over time I suspect you’ll discover that you’re looking for more finesse, balance and complexity. Do “blind” tasting as often as you can. There is no better way to develop your sense of taste then to drink “blind” with friends who have the same interest. It’s crucial to guess what you believe the country, region, varietal, vintage to be before anyone else has the chance to weigh in to ensure your guess is not clouded by someone else’s opinion. Be bold, be wrong, but don’t be vague.


Sample wine from every region you can find and make a few notes. I find that some collectors get stuck in what they know or like the best having only tasted wine from a very small sampling of the globe. Austrian Grüner Veltliner, Oregon Pinot Noir, Ontario Chardonnay and Alsatian Riesling are a few that come to mind. Try to find wines from the more obscure regions and record your thoughts.


Always try and swing by the wine growing area in whatever region you should travel. Wine is grown in almost every area of the world and I find that my greatest retained knowledge comes from having wine in its region of origin, meeting the people, eating the food, and remembering the experience when I return home and open the wine on my own soil.


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