I started drinking wine back in the 1980s and for years I was a white wine drinker. Back then I was happy to follow the wine fashions of the UK. So like many of my age I started with medium sweet Rieslings (actually I think some of them were Reisling knock offs using cheaper grapes), had a brief spell with Lambrusco (the only thing I could afford at university), moved onto Australian Chardonnays (good old Bin 65), then Italian Pinot Grigios, then the plethora of white wines that hit the market from New Zealand, South Africa and Chile.
I didn’t really give the taste of the wine much thought beyond : was it fruity? Frankly once the modern wine methods came in I was just glad they’d stop serving me those awful cheap table wines that were so acidic you could use them as a salad dressing. Not sure my stomach lining would have survived much more.
So what changed? ……I met a Master Sommelier in Asia of all places.
My journey started at a posh French Restaurant I went to with work. My boss, knowing I drunk wine, handed me the wine menu and said ‘you choose’. I swear it was a 40 page book with over 500 seriously expensive wines I knew nothing about. We’d have starved to death waiting for me to choose. So I flagged down the waiter and said , with more confidence than I felt: ‘we’d like a dry fruity white in the £100 range please.’ (That was cheap for this restaurant! Fortunately the company was paying.)
He immediately produced the Master Sommelier: a little French guy who far from being snobby was delighted to help us pick a wine. He asked me to describe my top 3-5 wine flavours. Then told me what he had matching them. When this guy described a wine to you it tasted exactly as he said it would and it was guaranteed lovely.
So started my company’s love affair with this restaurant. We treated ourselves once a month, on expenses, and let our little French Sommelier guide us. We never looked at the wine menu again. Slowly but surely he started to broaden my horizons. Fruity wines were superseded by herby, then buttery, then oily, then smoky and wonderfully blended mixes of these flavours. The list went on.
I had serious wine envy that this guy not only had access to 500+ amazing wines but knew exactly how each one tasted. So I started to pay attention to get some idea of what grapes and regions I liked. Then I moved to Spain and was introduced to Red wines. Back in the UK the trend swung to Rose wines. The circle was complete.
Of course outside of that restaurant in the pubs and bars of Spain and the UK the wine was usually bulk made. But even these had come on in leaps and bounds and the choice was widening. These days your average UK pub will often have 10+ wines by the glass, so having some basic knowledge of wine can come in handy.
Now I have no intention of getting to a Master level. That takes years of hard work, education and frankly a fair bit of money. I continue to be happy drinking the average wine served in the bars and I would never abandon my wine foundations. However I also go to many wine tastings to enjoy a selection of premium wines and continue to learn.
The time has now come to take it to the next level and gain a internationally recognised wine qualification, but more on that shortly.