20 Things Every Wine Lover Should Do

20 Things Every Wine Lover Should Do

1. Get Friendly with a Great Wine Merchant
Not any merchant. A great wine merchant. One who has experience matching wine to palate and one who can recommend wines they personally don't like. Cultivate this friendship. Get to know them on a first name basis. Give them your cell number. Trust them. Most important, get friendly with a great win merchant who is unlikely to skip town for a better gig. You're looking for a life long confident and friend.

2. Walk Through a Truly Great Vineyard
Not a Will-Be-Great vineyard, not a pretty vineyard and not a trendy vineyard, but rather walk though an historic and demonstrably great vineyard. Stroll the rows and maybe make off with some wood, but most important get yourself dirty with greatness.

3. Learn How to Give a Good Toast
If you are a wine lover, you will certainly find yourself around a table with others and be given the opportunity to say something of merit or consequence or something to mark the occasion with wine in hand. Not knowing how to give a toast is an opportunity lost that you should regret if the occasion finds you unprepared.

4. Own a Pair of Spectacular Wine Glasses
These are the glasses you keep clean and set aside when you want to mark an occasion with a good friend over wine. They don't need to be the best glasses in the world but they should be special and their appearance in your hands should at least communicate to your guest that the occasion is special, that your friend is special or that you and your friend are about to drink a special wine.

5. Attend a Commercial Wine Auction in Person
Not on-line. Not a charity auction. And certainly not a silent auction. Every wine lover should find themselves in the sales room on an auction house, near the side or inside aisle with paddle in hand if only to see what the contained and channeled desire for wine looks like of people's faces.

6. Be the Highest Bidder at a Commercial Wine Auction
This is different than number five. It's the next step. It's the act of embracing and channeling your wine desires and combining it with your competitive and acquisitional streak. Hear the hammer go down and the auctioneer calling your number will be a rush the first time. But it's also addictive. So be careful.

7. Organize Your Wine Collection
If you can't go right to the wine you want to drink or pour for friends, then you haven't been indulging your inner wine lover nearly enough. Spend time with your wines. Put them in an order. Know that order. Be able to reach straight for the 2000 Cabs or the d'Yquem you've been saving. Wine lovers don't pull bottles, push them back, over and over, searching for that one bottle. They know where it is, immediately.

8. Do Blind Tastings and Test Yourself
Tasting wines blind and testing your ability to identify wines is humbling. If you are like most wine lovers, you won't do well at it. But, it's OK to be humbled because it sets a baseline and if you regularly test yourself you will get better and distinguishing a Syrah from a Merlot or a Viognier from a Sauvignon Blanc while tasting blind.

9. Send it Back
Don't drink it. Just because you ordered it doesn't mean you have to drink it if it's spoiled or off. Send it back. Tell the waiter why you are sending it back. Tell them what you detect in the wine that is off. But send it back. And if the waiter wants to argue with you, don't engage them. Let them say their piece then request they either open a new bottle for you. And that's that.

10. Visit Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Alsace
The French can be annoying as hell. But they live in the homeland of wine. Every wine lover should make the pilgrimage. They should visit the vineyards. Drink the wines where they are made. Taste at the Chateau or in the garage. And do so across the country. Champagne to Alsace to Burgundy to Bordeaux (maybe with a stop in the Southern Rhone) seem to me to be the right circuit.

11. Study
I'm not talking about drinking. I'm talking about studying your passion. For heaven's sake learn how to pronounce the names of different producers, regions and varieties. Know the layout of regions. Know which varieties can be grown in different regions. Delve into some history. At the very least do this because eventually, as the group's well known wine lover, you are going to be called on to explain something. Explain it well and accurately.

12. Keep Sparkling and White Wine Chilled—Always
No true wine lover can go to their refrigerator and not find a bottle of Sparkling Wine or white wine chilled and ready to go. There should be no waiting. And if you are a wine lover the sparkling or white will rotate fairly regularly because wine lovers don't just drink red and they don't just drink Sparkling wine on "occasions".

13. Be Ready To Open a Bottle—Always
This means keeping a basic corkscrew not just in your house, but in your car, in your traveling toiletry bag and even a little cheap corkscrew in the pocket of your suits.

14. Learn To Ignore the Wine When Appropriate
Be a Wine Lover, not a Wine Geek. Don't be the person that has to extol the virtues or point to the flaws in a wine or talk and talk and talk about wine when in the company of folks who aren't quite as dedicated to wine as you. It's impossible to do these things and not come off looking like a pompous ass who doesn't care about the comfort level of others.

15. Make an Investment
It doesn't need to be a big one, but it should be an investment in a few bottles you can be pretty sure will increase in value over time. The reason is not to augment your financial portfolio but simply to have a wine or two or five that will help you mark and quantify the meaning of time as it relates to your passion. Plus, it's just fun to watch something you can hold, and even consume, increase in value over time.

16. Drink The Classics
It's not use being a lover of anything without experiencing the classics or benchmarks. For wine lovers that means seeking out and tasting the Bordeaux First Growths, the true California Cult Cabs, d'Yquem, DRC, etc. Real art lovers need to know what all the fuss is over the Monet or Pollock. Music lovers need to experience a live performance of "Mass in B Minor" or "Symphony #5". Wine lovers need to know the truth of the classic wines.

17. Make Love in a Vineyard
It's dirty, but wine lovers got to do it. In fact, choose the right vineyard. This might be the one you occasion upon while driving late at night. It might
be the vineyard that produces your favorite wine. I recommend a starry night with a half moon and a partner who is willing to indulge the quirks that come with being a wine lover.

18. Find a Wine Critic You Can Trust
Read around. Find the wine critic that reviews many wines and who recommends wines you enjoy. You can't taste everything and having that one go-to critic who has the palate to match yours is an indispensable tool that wine lovers must possess.

19. Learn to Make the Classic Champagne Cocktails
Wine lovers know that wine is also an ingredient, particularly when it comes to cocktails. Learn to make the Kir Royal, the Bellini, the Mimosa, the Death in the Afternoon. And learn to do it with good Sparkling Wine. Like any recipe, the sparkling wine-based cocktail is only as good as the quality of its ingredients. That means learning how to get the best out of a fresh, white peach and a bottle of Champagne.

20. Find Friends with whom You Can Release Your Inner Wine Geek
Real wine lovers do it together. Finding that set of friends who speak your language, who encourage dipping the tip of your nose in a glass, who can tell tall wine tales, who will argue with you over the amount of residual sugar in a wine, who will mock you for paying so much for a certain wine and who will share happily in your wine lovership are indispensable.

10 Responses

  1. Dylan - April 15, 2009

    Tom, have you completed the entirety of this list or are some points still in the making for you?
    If there are some points still in the making, I would like to challenge you to take your own advice and cross a few of them off your list before the end of 2009. Show us, as your readers, the impact these experiences you wanted to try had when you were able to try them. Of course, you can keep the details of number 17 to yourself.

  2. Oenophilus - April 15, 2009

    Applause, my friend. We need to be reminded of the joy that our fixation can still bring us. Cheers!

  3. jfalstaff - April 15, 2009

    Dude, this should be curriculum for Wine 101. I’m way past, and so are you. What’s the graduate program?

  4. brickofwine - April 15, 2009

    I salute you in putting into words what needed to be said. Too often, those just starting out with wine are at a loss on what the next steps are after getting bitten by the wine bug. These are things that take the casual to the next step toward their wine geekness. I still have a few to cross off that list. Thanks for reminding me of these enjoyable tasks at hand.

  5. Bart - April 16, 2009

    That was a great posting.
    Cheers to you.

  6. Vinogirl - April 16, 2009

    What a great list!
    Especially like #14…some people can be soooo boring about wine, when I just want to be left alone to drink.

  7. joel - April 16, 2009

    Nice post Tom. By the way, we’ll be doing #2 at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference this year – gettin’ dirty in a couple great vineyards in Napa.

  8. Vincent Fournier - April 18, 2009

    I would suggest one other thing to do: put a web site on-line, so get invited to many tastings, start receiving free wine bottles and get to drink wines you would never have dare dreamed about…

  9. The Wine Metro - April 19, 2009

    A great post Tom! I now have a goal to go along with tasting wine from all 50 states and drinking 100 varietals, completing your list before I die!

  10. Wine Glasses - December 9, 2009

    Each of these are great ideas.

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