On the surface, a BA in French Studies from a small university seems largely useless. Until I ended up on a small vineyard in St-Emilion with shears in my hands racing an impending storm, I would have agreed. While the link between studying French literature at the Sorbonne getting my hands dirty in St-Emilion limestone and sand might not be immediately clear, it is the path of education that led me there and my continued interest in studying the why of it all that keeps me going. Although I have been in various aspects of the wine industry (restaurant, retail, import and wholesale), and I had been exposed to great wines long before that harvest in Bordeaux, it was that one adventure that cemented my love for wine.
For me drinking wine is about enjoying what is in the bottle to the fullest extent, and that starts with the history. Knowing where a wine came from, who had their hands in the making of it and what the future might hold all adds a dimension. Of course how the wine smells and tastes in the end is by far the most important factor, but other influences such as food pairing and the company sharing the wine matter too. Drinking wine should be fun, and for me food and friends contribute to that greatly. When I drink wine I am searching for the ultimate experience in the moment.
Another key factor for me – that often gets raised eyebrows or scoffs – is the glassware. People can argue the merits of shape all they want; for me, it makes a big difference. I never wash my glasses with soap either. Lead crystal is porous, and if soap seeps in once every wine thereafter will be forever tainted. Hot water, steam, and a lint free cloth do the trick. It is the little details that really bring out the true cork dork (wine geek, wine snob; take your pick, we’ve heard them all). Why bother? When I open a bottle I don’t care about what score some critic gave it; beginning with the first swirl of the glass, I care about what I am getting from the wine, because I am drinking for me.
I began making notes when I drank wine as a reference method for myself. With so many wines from all over the world, I wanted to be able to better understand what it was that intrigued me about wine, and why I enjoyed certain wines more than others. Whether in a formal dégustation or at home with friends, I still make notes for myself on every wine I taste. If my notes can help me pick a great wine the next time I am looking for something new then it is all worthwhile.
On that note, my 1998 Deutz Blanc de Blancs should be just about at the right temperature now, so it is time to put away the computer and indulge in some elegant, rich, honeyed bubbles.