Learning about wine

Prompt: What is your learning style? Do you prefer to learn through reading, images, audio, discussion, hands on, etc.? What is something new you learned in the last 30 days?

I learn through trial and error. And by reading.

I definitely don’t learn by listening or watching.

I think most people learn by doing, but I might take that one step further with my ‘trial and error’ thing. For instance, provided I know I’m not going to permanently break something, I like to experiment and try one way, then try another way, until I find the way that works or just the way that works best for me. I’m definitely not afraid to make mistakes.

I do learn by reading, and I know a lot of people don’t. Yup, I’m one of those people who reads the instructions. *Wink* My husband is partly an aural learner, so sometimes I’ll read instructions aloud to him. That works well for both of us.

Lately I’ve been learning about wine after my husband bought me a wine rack for Mother’s Day. I’ve been boring everyone around me with wine-related conversation.  It’s how I roll. I pick something and do it to death, then I put it down and move on to the next thing. Wine kinda suits me because I’m also a natural hoarder collector.

Here’s some of the things I’ve learned recently…

My husband and I have different tastes in wine, although we both drink reds. I prefer sweet wines, without a tart aftertaste. I think that tartness is the tannins, so sweet with low tannins. Hubby likes the tannins. We usually buy merlot or pinot noir, but it’s always hit and miss as to whether I like them. Hubby’s easier to please. I rarely buy a shiraz or syrah (same grape, different name) because I know I don’t like them, although hubby does. Well, apparently syrah/shiraz are high in tannins, so that makes sense. So they’re off my list! *Laugh* Cab sav are also high in tannins, so they’re off the list too.  Although those are usually the best ones to cellar and then they mellow and are more drinkable.

Apparently red ‘ice wine’ is supposed to be very sweet. Don’t know if I’ve ever had that. I’ll keep an eye out for it.  I do like red dessert wines.  Clearview Estates make a gorgeous one called Sea Red.

I was trying to tell hubby yesterday that unlike one of my colleagues who would love to be a wine connoisseur but has a terrible palate and therefore enjoys most drinks, I’m the opposite and enjoy very few drinks because I have a very strong sense of taste. I’m not really sure if that’s true, but it would certainly explain why I’m both a fussy eater and drinker. Anyway, I found this quote which I liked:

‘About 25% of the population has a heightened sensitivity to bitterness and this group is referred to as “supertasters.” If you dislike bitter beers, kale, black coffee, and radicchio, you might fall into this category. Not all tannin is bitter, but the tannin found in the stems and seeds of grapes usually is.’

Ah ha! I’m a supertaster! *Laugh*

It’s very different to a tannin sensitivity, which is when your body can’t correctly process red wines, chocolate, tea, coffee, cinnamon, etc. I’m fairly sure I don’t have a tannin sensitivity.

Anyway, all quite interesting. I’m guessing I’ll learn the most by trying the wines though, and noting the ones that I like.  I went to a wine tasting on Monday and tried 16 wines from ten different wineries.  Was really interesting to take notes as I tried them.  I definitely couldn’t have remembered my thoughts on the wines if I hadn’t taken notes. And I did struggle after a while to differentiate the wines. I think I was saying ‘that’s not too sharp’, when if I’d tried it at the beginning of the night I would have thought it was sharp, but I’d had a bit of wine by then (on an empty stomach!) and had sharper wines, etc. So it was quite hard to judge each one individually, but some, like the Big Sky wine, still stood out. Overall, I’m really glad I did it, and I’m keen to do some more. I might do a proper write-up about the wine tasting.

‘A good rule of thumb is to aim to begin your collection with around 16 cases (nearly 200 bottles). If the idea of purchasing that much wine right out of the starting gate is daunting, downsize instead to six mixed cases (72 bottles). Plan to consume your starter kit over a six- to 12-month period, depending on its size and your habits, and make your next buying decisions based on your findings. Once you’re comfortable, the only limit is your budget.’

That made me laugh so much. I mean, we’re currently aiming for a collection of 72 bottles, but I’m not interested in filling all those spaces ‘right out of the starting gate’. But more than that, the idea of drinking 72 bottles in 12 months is ludicrous for us. That’s 6 bottles a month. I know that’s not much for most people. I know that many couples could comfortably drink two bottles a week and not consider themselves big drinkers. In fact, I don’t think anyone would consider them big drinkers at one bottle per week each. I had a colleague at my last job who drank a bottle a night with her husband and she doesn’t consider herself a big drinker. But the simple fact is that hubby and I don’t drink that much. The beauty of not drinking that much, of course, is that we can maintain a smaller cellar and still find it sufficient for our needs. And for the record, I think we probably drink between 12-24 bottles per year. I can see that increasing if we have a collection of wines we really enjoy, but it would certainly max out at 52 bottles per year. I just simply can’t see us drinking any more than that.

One article I read mentioned ‘birth year wines’, where you buy a wine made in the year your child was born, with the intention of gifting it to them or drinking it with them when they turn 21. Love that idea! Unfortunately, with my children already being teenagers, this is probably outside my budget. Would have been such a cool thing to do when they were young though, and wouldn’t have cost so much then! Hmm, I think I’ll see if I can get some birth year ports for them. Mazurans has them for NZ$150 each. Would be cool to put away. I mentioned it to hubby and said I wasn’t sure it’d be a good 21st present as a 21 year old doesn’t really appreciate a 21 year old port, you know? He suggested giving it to them for their wedding or the birth of their first child. Love that idea. Can’t afford to get them yet, but when I can, I will. They’ll only get more expensive the longer I wait, so will try to do it this year if I can. Hubby was supposed to buy me a bottle of Mazuran’s 1980 port for my 40th birthday next year, but I have discovered that Taylor’s (my absolute favourite port) did a 1980 vintage, and I want it. Desperately! *Laugh* It’s £99, so approximately NZ$200. I’ve arranged to send it to my sister in the UK and my mum will bring it back when she goes over in July. Saves me the postage. Not that I can afford that either just yet, but I’ll make it happen. For 40 year old Taylor’s port, from my birth year? Yeah, I’m definitely making that happen! *Laugh*

I’ve decided to start tracking the wines I taste and/or drink, so that I learn more about my own preferences, and so that I am more likely to buy wines that I will enjoy drinking. See, up until now, I’ve mostly just bought wines based on whether the name or label appeal to me on a visual or creative level. Yes, I’m a sucker for marketing. I admit it. I rarely buy more than one bottle of the same wine, simply because I don’t know if I’ll like it or not. It’s always a gamble.

Having said that, when we do find a wine that we like, we try to take note of it. For instance, we had a nice bottle of the Hunting Lodge Central Otago Single Vineyard 2017 pinot noir when we had our wedding anniversary dinner at the Hunting Lodge in January. We knew we really enjoyed the wine, so we bought three bottles of it. We also bought three bottles for the in-laws, which have, of course, already been drunk! We still have our three bottles. I wonder how long they’ll cellar.  I also know that I like The Obsidian from Obsidian Vineyard, and Luna Negra from Stonyridge Vineyard, but those are quite pricey wines.  I have a bottle of 2012 The Obsidian in my cupboard.

That’s another thing I’ve learned – wines have a best-before date. I did not know that. I thought you could stick a bottle of wine away and it would still be good (or even better!) years later. Not so. Wine has a limited shelf life. Even the really good ones have a limited shelf life, although it’s much longer than a cheap wine. Many wines will only last 1-2 years. A really good one might need cellaring for 5-10 years and be good for as many as 20. Ports and dessert wines will last much longer because of the sugar content. So, that means I need to put more thought into my purchases. I can’t just buy a bunch of cheap wines and leave them until whenever I feel like drinking them, knowing they’ll never expire, which is what I’ve been doing for the most part. They WILL expire, and therefore I should only buy as much drink-now wine as I can reasonably expect hubby and I to drink in a year or two. It’s a whole different concept.

But I read something else too. I signed up to emails from the wine shop that hosted the wine tasting I went to on Monday (it’s my boss’s wine shop of choice) and they sent me an email with their weekly specials. I was Googling one of their expensive wines, to educate myself a little bit, and it said ‘decant for about an hour’. Um, what? We’re lucky if we let our wines breathe for five minutes before drinking them, and that’s just opening the bottle and pouring a portion into each glass. If a really expensive wine needs decanting for an hour, I can imagine that the cheap malbec I drank last Tuesday night needed at least that! I can actually imagine it would have made a huge difference to the wine. Dammit! Why doesn’t anyone teach you stuff like this? Isn’t there a wine appreciation course you can do? Ha ha! I actually bought a wine decanter a while ago. It’s Stuart Crystal, because that’s my favourite. Might have to start using it and see what a difference that makes. I’m really tempted to buy that same cheap malbec and see how different it tastes if I decant it. What do you reckon?

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