This weekend the girlfriend and I took a weekend getaway to the Texas Hill Country. If you have never been to this part of the country, I recommended it. It wasn’t a big adventure in the sense that this is the region we grew up in, but the rolling hills and unique landscape are still never disappointing for us.
One of the newer aspects of this beautiful section of my world that has changed since our more youthful days is the introduction of a quickly growing wine industry, and our vacation quickly evolved into a wine tour of the region. I have a special relationship with wine. Not in the snobby discussion of undertones and aromas sense, not in the far more simplified “I really like drinking wine” arena. It is with that in mind that I give you my personal guide to wine.
Rule One – Screw It
My best advice to the newly adventurous wine drinker is to get all that crap about what wine should be, according to the wine elitist, out of your head. If you go into the world of wine looking to agree with the critics and professionals you are going to miss out on half the fun. Who gives a damn what me or anyone else thinks of what you like?
The fun of wine is exploring a world of variety and finding what you like. Who exactly are you trying to impress, and why should their opinion matter to you? I take the same approach to wine that I do with beer. I like what I like and screw what anyone else thinks. Their opinions don’t change if I like it. If I drink a rare vintage that is lauded by others, but I don’t enjoy drinking it, what is the point? So step one is to go in with the mindset that you will drink what you like and to hell with anyone who doesn’t like it.
Step Two – Learn The Language
With step one out of the way it is time to realize there is still value in learning the language of wine. This isn’t so you can impress others with the range of your pallet, but rather to help you save some cash and trouble on your adventure.
Reviews are full of bold and often pretentious descriptions of a wine’s flavors and nose. If you can start to get a handle on what these descriptions mean in correspondence with your own taste, you can avoid spending your hard earned cash on wines that don’t fit into your tastes.
Step Three – Set A Budget
Wines can range in price wildly. There are “good wines” and “bad wines” in ever facet of price vs. quality. Personally my usual range is somewhere around $10 – $15. Set a price range and explore. I have a rule of thumb that I took from my rules when choosing books and movies.
Any time the author or directors name is printed larger on an advertisement than the actual title, it is a good bet the producers are banking on the name of that person selling the product rather than the quality of the actual thing you are paying for. This has carried over to wine for me. Any time someone touts how they spent a ridiculous amount of money on a bottle of wine, they just told me their priority is not if the wine is any good, but that they are just tossing around money to impress.
Set a budget and expect equal amounts of enjoyment and letdowns. Find a price range that you will be happy you got a bargain on a good wine you enjoy, but not so much you will have buyers remorse if it turns out it isn’t a wine you love. This will serve you well in the long run.
Start at the low end until you have a good idea of what types of wines you enjoy. Once you have that down, read reviews and find wines that fit into that character and maybe splurge here and there, but not before.
Step Four – Drink Whatever The Hell You Like
While I am by no means saying ignore things like suggested pairings (this wine goes well with this food) it is important that you drink what you like and eat what you like. It is true I have a favorite Pinot Grigio to drink with grilled salmon, the rule of whites with fish and reds with red meat is a load of garbage. Some wines go damn well with macaroni and cheese.
It is all about enjoyment. Drink what you enjoy and eat whatever you want with it. Find your own preferences. In the end that is all that matters. Impressing others with your knowledge of wine can be fun if that is your style, but at the end of the day, drinking a wine you like is a lot more fun. Life is far too short to be spent on what others like.
I have had wines that have been called some of the best in reviews that I would classify, in the words of my grandmother, as “a good grade of vinegar gone bad.” And other times I have had those that have won no rewards that I would call my favorites. Wine is meant to be savored and enjoyed. Do that, and you can have the adventure of a lifetime.