There’s a question I’ve been contemplating a lot over the past year. It’s informed some of my career choices, and been on my mind when I’ve talked to wine professionals and wine lovers alike. In its simplest form: “Why is learning about wine so daunting?” Attendant with that: “How do we make it less so?”
It’s unfortunate, in a sense, that we live in a time when the options for wine lovers are so much greater than they ever used to be. It took me five minutes to find a list of hundreds of different styles and varietals, from more than two dozen countries, all of which can be purchased with relative ease in Seattle (OK, the Moldovan wine might be a bit of challenge).
Plus, wine drinking has never been more popular in the U.S. than it is right now. Consumption hits a new high mark every year, driven in large part by a younger generation that has taken to wine in a truly thrilling way. Millennials might have given us “White Girl Rosé,” but they’re also a generation of wine drinkers who don’t immediately look at former Soviet Bloc countries or quaint corners of France as inferior to Bordeaux or Burgundy.
Yet in my work as a sommelier, in the classes I teach, and in the conversations I have, there is still a massive societal insistence that people just can’t learn about wine, and certainly can’t talk about it. No doubt snobbery in the wine industry still exists, and of course those stereotypes take quite a while to undo, but I worry that while more wine is being consumed than ever, people are still being dissuaded from engaging with it in a fuller and more fulfilling way.
I encourage the interested wine drinker to read and listen on the subject; there’s a ton of great content out there, much of it aimed at neophytes. I can’t recommend local author Madeline Puckette’s Wine Folly book and website enough, and British legend Jancis Robinson is thoroughly informative yet engaging to read.
Podcasts too can be a fantastic source of information: I’ll Drink to That with Levi Dalton can get a bit esoteric and episodes often eclipse an hour, but the stories are often well worth it. The Guild of Sommeliers also offers a somewhat infrequent podcast that I think provides a great window into the mind of my profession. Humbly, yours truly also has a podcast, Disgorged, which I hope offers informative content without being overwhelming.
Learning about wine has been tremendously rewarding for me, not just professionally but personally. A greater understanding of what I’m pouring into my glass has allowed me to enjoy wines on a different level than when I first entered this industry, and I find that connection only strengthening with time. A book or podcast alone can’t fully demystify wine, but they might just provide you with an avenue to better understanding this magical and captivating liquid, and that’s a good start.