How I learned wine, one bottle at a time

I can recall the first time I really, truly, whole heartedly appreciated what wine was about, and it was not pleasant at all! My first ever wine tasting as an adult was great, but one moment in it marked me forever. The hostess poured a sip of what I think was Chardonnay and describes it as having a “vegetal” aroma with notes of red and green peppers and a taste of asparagus. I sipped, I tasted asparagus, I spat it out. Who the fuck wants their wine to taste like asparagus? That still gets me to this day. But 1,397 (wild guess) bottles of wine later here I am running a business that shares awesome wines with cool people. So how did I get here? Its actually a little easier than you think.

I knew I enjoyed wine, but could not really give reason as to why I enjoyed wine. The more wines I drank, the more I experienced, the more I grew to like different wines from around the world. This formed a guide rail for how I grew to learn about wine but I realized there was more to it. I found that my friends who were curious about wine turned to me to select wines at restaurants, gatherings, or even at a bar when I was drinking a beer. I liked wine so therefore I must know wine right? Truth is (and sorry to all my friends between 2006–2014) but I did not know jack shit about wine. All I knew was what tasted good to me, and tried to find something similar. Key there being I (sort of) knew what tasted good to me. Emphasis on ME!

Do you need a traditional understanding of wine? No!

A few people suggested I become a certified sommelier, or get my WSET diploma. That seems really cool and if anybody out there is thinking of pursuing that path, especially if it pertains to them developing a career in the drinks industry, then I say go for it! Go for it and don’t look back, you will get taken to a whole new world of understanding drinks. But this was not the path for me. I realized very quickly that you do not need a formal education to enjoy or appreciate something. Do you need an art degree to appreciate a Monet? Do you need to know how to brew to appreciate a beer? It helps, but really the answer is no. My passion was not in the pairing and serving of wine. My passion was in the drinking of wine, and sharing it with friends. My mom asked me one day over breakfast when I was noticeably unhappy with my life choices “My son, what makes you happy?” to which I responded “Drinking.” Can’t recall ever needing a degree for drinking, as much as some of my friends seemed to think that was the whole purpose of college.

The realization that drinking is social. Its a pillar of our civilization!

My dad spent 35 years in the beer business. He used to tell me stories/history of how people created civilization so we could all sit around and get drunk. It was thanks to our discovery of fermenting grains that we decided to build cities, kingdoms, empires. For others the discovery of fermenting grape juice had the same affect, see Rome, Empire. From its inception to this day drinking remains a social practice, we drink to enjoy ourselves amongst others, to make and strengthen bonds within our community. Admittedly there are a few problems with drinking too much, but our intentions always start from a place of “Lets have fun!”

I always loved this image of Action Bronson enjoying wine with his friends. The guy in the blue shirt is the winemaker, and you can see he’s just happy.

This is when I realized who the truly great people were in the wine industry. The sommeliers and critics are there to help us make some sense of what has become a rather pretentious drink in many corners of the world, but holding them to high esteem is like having praise for the writer who writes for Rolling Stone about Tattoo You and not, you know, the ACTUAL ROLLING STONES! Our attentions were misplaced, and it made wine into a competition rather than a social elixir.

Wine should be about sharing. The whole purpose for why I started Vynl was to share great experiences in wine with friends, and get them to share those experiences with the awesome people that make those wines. Our entire blog is dedicated to sharing new wine discoveries with people. Besides, you aren’t going to drink a whole bottle by yourself are you? That seems kind of sad. Better to have two bottles with someone else there!

Open yourself to suggestion

When I started to realize that I enjoyed wine more when I was sharing the experiences with other people I found it easy to take a step back and open myself up to discovering new things. I found that no matter how adventurous I thought I was, I had a knack of falling back onto what I knew I liked. When I took a step back and asked other people what they liked their faces lit up. People wanted to share with me the cool wine they found. It broke down a barrier I never realized was up. When people thought I was a wine expert they were afraid to be judged and withheld things from me. When they saw me as a wine lover and sharer they loved to share their favorite wines with me. They were proud about what they found on would not stop talking about it.

Be like Action! Don’t be afraid to learn shit from people who love what they are bringing to you!

I found that when people shared wines they loved with me I was more open to the wine, I was more excited about it even if I had never had anything like it before. Their enthusiasm spilled over. The wines did not always hit me or tug on my heart strings the way it did for them, but I always appreciated the wine more because of what it meant to them. Which leads me to my last point.

Only you know what is good, so trust yourself

You can, and you should, be a little selfish about wine sometimes. Taste is very subjective. Trust yourself, and don’t be swayed by other people. Like anything in the world there are always going to be trends, fads, and classics. The only way to successfully manuever through all of them is to go with your gut, or rather your heart.

The best quote I ever heard was given by a rather eccentric French winemaker. More eccentric than the usual French winemaker. He said that a great wine should grab you by the heart and never let go. I would add that if a wine does not grab you by the heart then move on, no matter how great others may think it is it is not the wine for you.

If I had to break it down I would say…

How I learned about wine can be boiled down into three parts. Drink, share, and trust yourself. So many people out there claim to be experts, want to tell you to drink this and not that, but what is it all for? How I got to experience wine has not just taught me about wine, but taught me how to enjoy life and taught me how to be a friend. Drink to be merry, share what you love as much as people share with you what they love, and trust your heart. That is the sure fire way to enjoy a great bottle of wine with great friends.

Wine and drink lover, making it a better experience to find and enjoy good drinks. Changing how we appreciate wine one bottle at a time.