Start the new year with a promise to live cleaner, but not so clean that you forget to imbibe a bit. Aim to drink smarter and drink less, but better. The best way to do this is by educating yourself. Knowledge requires devotion and time, but there are simple ways to learn and explore the world of wine.
Finding a great, branded wine and comparing it to one that is not branded is an example of how knowledge can save you money and lead you to more enjoyable vintages. Famed wine producer Silver Oak Cellars has vineyards in both Sonoma County and Napa Valley. Compare the price and quality between each location. Both are good, but the Napa is almost 40 percent more expensive. The key is to find exactly where that less expensive (but still very good) wine comes from. Within Alexander Valley, Silver Oak Cellars has vineyards on Chianti Road and has neighbors worth knowing about. One is Blue Rock Vineyard (a vineyard that abuts Silver Oak Cellars), where the wine costs another 40 percent less than the wine produced in Sonoma County.
A fast way to learn is to think each time you taste a wine. Ask yourself: Do I like it? Where is this from? Why does it taste like this? What grape or grapes go into it? Was it worth the money? Of course, it’s easier to get answers when you taste with a sommelier, but no one can tell you whether you will like a wine or think it’s a good value. Those are personal and don’t require training—just pay attention.
Information is far more accessible than it was a decade ago with the internet, social media and mobile phones. The easiest thing is listening to a critic and checking the wine’s score, but I don’t believe in this exclusively because those are someone else’s opinions. Where it comes from, how it’s made and what it’s made from are facts that define a wine before our opinion deems it good, bad or somewhere in between and should guide the drinker’s preferences.
A few wines to experiment this method with:
2008 Gruet Pinot Noir Cuvée Gilbert, New Mexico
2008 Viña Aquitania Sol de Sol Chardonnay, Traiguen, Chile
2009 Antonin Guyon Hautes Côtes de Nuits Cuvée des Dames de Vergy
2009 Russiz Superiore Cabernet Franc, Collio, Italy
Need some wine answers? Follow me on twitter @noblewines or my blog noblewines.com.