For someone who is serious about wine, I’m pretty young. I only started seriously exploring wine a year ago when I walked into Sherry Lehmann the day after I turned 21 and was handed a glass of Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque 2006. And yet when I look back at the wines that I’ve tasted and drunk over the past year, I can’t help but be amazed.
From Grand Cru Corton to Sanford & Benedict Vineyard Pinot Noir, from Grower Champagne to Tokaji Aszu, from JJ Prum Rieslings to Penfolds Grange, and many, many more, in a year I’ve been able to taste and drink my way quite literally around the world, although I still have large For someone who doesn’t work in the wine industry, has never taken a wine class, and doesn’t have enough money to be a serious collector, the fact that I’ve been able to taste 100 Champagnes side-by-side, or compare Chablis, Chassagne, and Puligny-Montrachet, or drink 15 year old Rioja Reserva…things I wouldn’t have thought possible a year ago.
Yet beyond the premium and expensive wines, the quality and diversity among everyday drinking wines is also incredibly high. For around $20 or less, I can find good quality and interesting Lange Nebbiolo, South African Chenin Blanc, Rieslings from pretty much anywhere, and sometimes even Bordeaux (link)! With a little effort and sometimes patience, I can drink or taste wines from pretty much anywhere I want (except for maybe DRC).
Part of this is being in the right places at the right time. New York and San Francisco are without a doubt the twin centers of wine culture in America, and I’ve been lucky enough to spend a significant amount of time in both. However, I also believe that, wherever you live, we live in one of the best eras for wine lovers. Interesting, characterful wine is being made on six continents, and because of the miracles of modern shipping technology and wine-searcher.com these wines can be delivered directly to your door (local laws permitting, of course).
We also live in one of the best eras to learn about wine. If you know where to look, there are a ton of online resources available to help people starting out (like me) to learn about wine. Alder Yarrow at vinography.com, Jancis Robinson & company at jancisrobinson.com, and Eric Asimov at NY Times among others. None of this can take the place of actually tasting wines for yourself, but the best wine writers—and I say writers, not just critics—explain the stories, philosophy and history behind wines and regions and encourage you to go out and try something you may have never even known existed.
So grab a glass, do some research, and, above all, have fun!