I’m fortunate to be a wine professional, but you don’t need a Ph.D. to be able to enjoy and appreciate the fine qualities of wine. Wine often comes with a side dish of pretension; because of this, many people have been intimidated and apprehensive about jumping into this beautiful blend of nature, science, and art. But, really, drinking wine is pretty simple. It’s not, to employ a common metaphor, rocket science.
The fulfillment and enjoyment of drinking wine doesn’t come from being able to smell cherries, tobacco, vanilla, and other obscure scents. It doesn’t come from being able to name the varietal, estate and year in a single swirl and sip. It doesn’t come from shelling out big clumps of cash—though all of those things are nice. No, the enjoyment of wine comes from the moment, the surroundings, the context, and the company when you drink it.
Sure, for some people the ability to distinguish a wine by varietal, age, and vineyard is a cherished skill, but not being a professional doesn’t preclude your ability to enjoy wine. You can enjoy listening to music, playing soccer, looking at a painting, or watching opera without being a musician, center forward, artist or tenor—the same is true with drinking wine. It’s not the skill of the drinker; rather, it’s the people, the culture and the events that make wine special. Without these elements, wine is only alcoholic grape juice. The history behind the wine and the stories shared while drinking it are what bring it to life.
The greatness of my favorite and most memorable wines didn’t come because I was able to smell mushroom and taste tar; these memorable wines were great because the company was great. The memory of those people with whom I shared in the event that made the wine truly “special.” What I am trying to say is that it doesn’t matter how good your nose is or how expensive a bottle of wine is: what’s important are the experiences and the conversations that the wine inspires. To really broaden your wine education, it’s important to try different wines, find your favorite styles, and experiment.
But it’s most important to enjoy the wine with fantastic food, family, and friends. These components make the memories that will last a lifetime.