I have spent the past three Tuesday nights learning about wine – something which, although I drink a lot of, I know incredibly little about.
The main thing I have learnt is that there is a lot to know about wine that I don’t know. However, I do now feel a little more confident when faced with extensive wine lists and bottle shop aisles.
From this point forward, I plan to be a little more adventurous when it comes to choosing vino.
In times gone by, whenever I went to a bottle shop, I would head straight for the Marlborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the $15-$25 range. Apparently this is not cool at all, if you know anything about wine!
But, I can defend this choice. The standard NZ sauvvie is popular because it is reliable. Pretty much whatever you select will be palatable and will not offend anyone. However, it is this very blandness and uniformity that is so affronting to wine-people. Wine-people like complexity, depth, individuality and balance. I note: as was apparent when sampling fish sauce, what applies to consumables can also be applied to people. While such deeper wines/people may be more challenging, the ultimate reward is greater (usually).
From now on I will look beyond the generic NZSB. Last weekend I tried a 2007 Arboleda Carmenère from the Valle de Colchagua in Chile (tannic and tart, ripe cherry tones). The weekend before that I drank a 2008 Plozner Friulano from Friuli in Northeast Italy (light and acidic, reminiscent of apple juice and lemons).
Now it is fortifieds week. On Tuesday I brought home a Lustau San Emilio PX Pedro Ximenez from the class. It tasted exactly like sultanas, which gave me a good idea. I plan to use it to make a Christmas Pudding and I found a recipe on the internet which uses a fortified. (Stay tuned over the coming week for that adventure…Very excited.)
The wine course has also taught me to consider more thoroughly what I am drinking. I have been looking at, smelling, tasting and thinking about my wine much more carefully. Until now, I have tended to throw back whatever it was that was placed in my glass.
This little skill reminds me of the Zen saying: ‘when drinking tea, just drink tea’. I guess it means that you should devote your full attention to the current moment. Very Eckhart Tolle.
This has translated into other areas of my life. On the weekend I took a lovely trip to visit my friend L. in Castlemaine. I was walking along the street sniffing the air and thinking, ‘hmmm…there’s some eucalypt…and some honeysuckle…and some vegetal notes…’ (I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m losing it.) This wine caper is very enjoyable and I’m fast learning that there’s a whole new world of taste out there just waiting to be explored…
Here are some websites about wine which I have been perusing:
James Halliday Wine Companion – I haven’t joined this one yet but it looks great. Thousands of tasting notes and information about wineries and their cellar doors.
Decanter – The wine magazine. There are some interesting articles and ‘how to’ videos aimed at beginners.
Wines of Australia – lots of information about Australian wines and wineries.
Update: Em’s friend, C., has pointed me in the direction of The Wine Front this morning. This looks interesting – similarly to the Halliday site, you pay a fee and gain access to a whole lot of tasting notes and articles.