How to build your knowledge of wine

Tuscany is a great place to start if you want to build your wine knowledge

Michael Broadbent for many is the modern patron saint of wine. In 2002, in the Decanter magazine, he listed the ten most important things that he had learned on wine. Two quotes stick to mind.

Drink good wine with every meal. Half a bottle of good wine is more interesting – and better for you – than six bottles of plonk.

Be honest and rely on your own tasting; avoid the influence of others.

Many love to drink a good glass of wine but are intimidated by the subject of wine and most people actually hesitate to go beyond the supermarket shelves.

The subject of wine is incredibly fascinating. It is one of constant discovery, one in which only very few if ever will completely master the subject given the width and breath of wines that can be tasted. Take a region and break it down into different communes, within those communes, find different vineyards, some growing different varietals of grapes. You will find that different producers make different wines a few metres from each other and you will end up asking why is one wine dry and the other less dry? Why does one wine have more alcohol then the other? Why is one wine able to age for many years and the other wine best now? How does a wine evolve in the bottle? The combinations are indeed endless.

My interest in wine grew gradually as my interest in food and cooking developed. Wine and food is a complementary subject and in fact you will find that many magazines dealing with food also have wine sections. But then, you can also find wine magazines which help you to start discovering the world of wines. The US magazine Wine Spectator and the British publication Decanter are both excellent magazines to develop your knowledge of wines. You can also look for the Italian Gambero Rosso or the French La Revue du Vin among others. These are extremely good starting points for discovering wines.

Then there are books like The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson which is a superb reference book not only teaching you about the growing process of wine but also illustrating with photos, maps and accurate descriptions the wines and specificities of different wines and regions. One of the best books to read on the subject is Hugh Johnson’s A life Uncorked which is a gem of a book which is part biography and full of information on every aspect of wine. This is a book I recommend to all friends because it is beautifully written and touches upon subjects like tasting, cellaring, choosing, understanding, comparing and buying wine as well as wine’s pleasures, lures and mysteries. Read this book with a notebook by your side and write his recommendations. This is the best place to start if you want to learn more about wines.

You can also follow some wine critics on Twitter. Some of the best critics to follow are Jancis Robinson who also writes a weekly column in the Financial Times, James Suckling formerly of Wine Spectator and now having his own website. I also particularly like the insights of Tim Atkin and Robert Joseph among others. My favourite wine blogger is Alder Yallow who writes a wine blog – Vinography.

There is a more direct approach to wine which is to head to a wine region and let yourself become immersed in the culture of wine of that wine region. Whichever the region, you are bound to discover passionate people who will guide you to what the region has to offer in terms of wine and cuisine. They will indicate their favourite wineries or wine stores. The latter are also a great source of information. Go with an open mind and allow the wine merchant to take you on a voyage of discovery. If you eliminate your prejudices, you are bound to be pleasantly surprised.

One thing which I have discovered is that whenever there are vineyards, the landscape is bound to be beautiful if not spectacular. This is the case wherever you go.

Once you start to get more and more knowledgeable you are bound to discover that you want to learn more and more. What is most important is to avoid plonk and always choose to try wines from winemakers which have a story to tell. When you do that, you are bound to never be disappointed. As they like to say, life is too short to drink bad wine.



%d bloggers like this: