I was first introduced to wine as a youngster, being served Mogen David at our temple services in northern Illinois. At home, this unctuous sweet beverage made from concord grapes was dispensed at Passover and many Jewish holidays, as they all include wine. But these early exposures had little to do with my later passion to learn about wine.
Learning About Wine is an Adult Sport
Although my children, growing up in a winemaking household, and those in Europe who grow up in wine cultures, may have an early start, the curiosity to learn about wine develops for most Americans in adulthood. It is as an early adult that one’s taste buds achieve the maturity and refinement to discern and appreciate the flavor nuances in wine.
History of Wine Contributes to the Challenge of Learning.
Winemaking is believed to have sprouted in Georgia, on the Black Sea, 8000 years ago. This is a millennium prior to the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia, the Birth of Civilization. The amount of information and human experience surrounding wine is more than a lifetime can embrace, so the first step to learn about wine can be daunting.
For many, the sheer volume of information is a gating factor. But for those who become enchanted by their first “aha moment”, when a glass of wine with a meal exceeds the sum of the parts, there is no turning back: the challenge to learn about wine transforms into a compelling drive.
Where to Start to Learn About Wine
But where does one start to learn about wine? There is so much written and so many resources available, where to turn can be confusing. Tomes written by luminaries like Robert Parker, Hugh Johnson, Karen McNeill, and Michael Broadbent previously set the cornerstones of academic reference. The field has grown exponentially, including a host of contributors and media populated by traditional journalists like Anthony Dias Blu, Allen Meadows, Eric Asimov, Gerald Asher, and Dan Berger as well as a new generation of bloggers: Alder Yarrow (Vinography.com), Joe Dresser (JoeDressner.com), Jamie Good (WineAnorak.com) and Tyler Coleman (DrVino.com).
Even with the plethora of experts, information, and opinion being apparently limitless, there is only one place to learn about wine that consistently and persistently tells the truth: your mouth. That is not to suggest that you always tell the truth, even when speaking about wine. But your mouth will always accurately convey your experience, guiding you through the complex, exciting and rewarding world of your senses: Smell, Taste, Feel, See and even Hear.
The profusion of authors, columnists and bloggers are an important part of the wine universe. These participants in growing wine knowledge enhance the community that wine stimulates. They are the catalysts and “sneezers” to building community around wine. They assist the distant winemaker in connecting with the global hordes who seek his artisanship. They also facilitate discussion, consideration and the shifting of tastes over days, years and decades. To learn about wine means to include yourself in the discussion, if only as a reader or lurker. The content can broaden one’s own experience and tickle recognition to open and deepen channels within.
Take the time; seek out those with whom you resonate. Read what they say and chime in if you desire. Follow the threads of interest to quench your growing thirst. It is satisfying. Join the community and it will embrace you. Wine is first about enjoyment.
A Sport for the Timid: Learning
But be cautious as you learn about wine. There are no badges to earn or status to seek. Thousands of years of knowledge cannot be mastered in a lifetime. Humility is a constant companion on the path. Despite the numerical charts of value, be it price, ratings or other apparatus, to truly learn about wine requires an inward journey where no such yardsticks are relevant. There are friends to be made along the way; but the minute you exalt yourself, you limit yourself.
To learn about wine means to travel within. It also means participating in the community of man spanning thousands of years. It is both humbling and elevating.