A New Outlook (updated 25 April 2022)
After almost ten years, my outlook has changed.
I still think study and analysis are important in gaining a deeper understanding of wine, however there is a limit to how deep one can go before wine becomes less of a pleasure and more of a burden.
In 2020, that all changed.
After drifting in limbo for half a year, I was nudged gently sideways out of hospitality and into retail. There was greater stability and less pressure in my life for the first time in a long time.
Inevitably, I had to reevaluate my approach to wine, and what it meant to me.
It’s the difference between “oh, that’s interesting” and “…wow, that’s amazing”.
I think for a long time I was trying to get more people to think the latter, and missing the point that there’s nothing wrong with the former.
Of course I do not regret my studies and training, but it’s not necessary if one just wants to enjoy wine and learn a bit about it. And if someone wants to know a little bit more, I’ll be there to give them a few pointers.
Now that I read my old “philosophy” below, it sounds almost arrogant, like “people shouldn’t just drink wine, they should respect it, and the only way to do that is to study it and think about it”.
And in fact, I don’t disagree with anything I’ve written below. However, I’ve come to accept that different people appreciate things differently, and there’s no need for anyone to dictate to anyone else how to enjoy wine.
Why Rational Wine? (Old philosophy)
There are a number of reasons why I believe a rational approach to wine is necessary.
Many people are quick to express their love of wine, but I try to approach from a position of respect.
Wine has a long history spanning thousands of years, across many cultures and civilisations. The Romans spread the vine across their territories in Europe because it was unsafe for their armies to drink water. Wine was used to sanitise the water and made this expansion possible. Fortified wines made the long ship voyages bearable for the first explorers to discover the New World.
In modern times there have been many developments in the world of wine. International trade created a truly global economy, but enabled the Phylloxera louse to spread and almost spelled the end of the vine. Human ingenuity prevailed, fortunately, by introducing the concept of grafting Phylloxera-resistant rootstocks and ensured the future of wine.
New World wines became more sophisticated, being untethered by the same rules and regulations as their Old World counterparts. However the New World is beginning to develop an appreciation of Old World techniques and traditions. Combined with New World methods and technologies, wines are reaching yet another level of complexity.
Yet all of the above is too easily forgotten when all you see is a bottle on the table.
I have a deep respect for the patience of those who tend the vineyards, the ingenuity of those who must turn the grapes into wine, and the entrepreneurial spirit of those who take this wine and spread it across the world for everyone to taste. Without them, our lives would be that much poorer.
When you are in a bar or restaurant do you see the people around you taking time to savour their wine? Or do you see them just throw it down the hatch without further consideration?
Before my introduction to wine I used to be one of the latter. And when you drink hastily, you will find yourself living hastily as well. Life seems to go by in a rush and we never have enough time to pause, consider and reflect.
Wine has taught me to slow down and smell the roses… and the fruits, the spices, the grass… life slowed down and I was able to relax.
If I asked you why you enjoyed a particular wine, would you be able to describe it for me? Or would you only be able to say “I don’t know, I just like it”?
Being unable to describe a wine you enjoy is like forgetting the names of the main characters in a good novel. You enjoy them on a superficial level, but you don’t understand the reasons on a deeper level. And if you cannot understand it on a deeper level, how can you hope to repeat the experience?
Many times clients have asked me to suggest a wine similar to one they have had in the past, but when I ask them for details they draw a blank. While you can pick a wine just by region, vintage and winemaker, if you only stick with what you have had in the past you are closing yourself to new experiences. If you know what you enjoy in a wine, I can suggest exotic new wines with similar profiles but new expressions. And to me that is one of the most exciting things about wine.
A general awareness of a small number of variables is a good first step. Sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol and flavour characteristics should be considered as you taste.
I don’t claim to have all the answers. When it comes right down to it, I’m just a professional alcoholic. But I hope that as I add more to this site I can enlighten more readers and in turn educate myself.