Ask any wine writer or critic the number one question they are consistently asked by average wine drinker they meet on the street, and you’ll inevitably get the same answer. Given the opportunity, the casual wine drinker usually asks some variation of: “I really enjoy wine, but I don’t know much about it. What’s the best way for me to learn more?”
Despite the repetitive nature of this question, I never get tired of hearing it, because it is almost always asked out of enthusiasm, no matter how timid. I also never get tired of giving the same answer, because I believe that there are several virtues that every wine lover should cultivate, and the answer to this particular question can be found in the chiefest of those virtues.
I believe the single most important quality for any wine lover to cultivate is their sense of curiosity. The breadth and diversity of the wine world almost defy description. With dozens of countries producing wine from thousands of different kinds of grapes, the landscape open to the adventurous drinker rewards exploration with experience.
Indeed, more than any wine course or wine book, simply tasting different kinds of wine as often as practically possible may make the greatest difference in any aspiring wine lover’s life. Such exploration invariably yields two primary benefits. First, it helps us figure out what we like and what we don’t. Second, it leads to the kinds of discoveries that fuel the excitement that makes up a part of every wine lover’s passion. For some that may be the thrill of finding a $15 bottle that drinks like a $50 bottle; for others it might be the first taste of a wine that really smells like lychees. Nothing befits a wine lover more than a childlike desire to experience yet another unknown corner of the wine world.
Excerpt of “The Essence of Wine”, Alder Yarrow’s book
Thankfully we have reached a point here in the United States where such curiosity need not also be accompanied by the means to travel the world, visiting cellar doors in far-flung wine regions. Having recently become the largest consumer of wines on the planet, America is awash in more diverse and higher quality wines than at any time in history. The curious wine lover need only cultivate a relationship with their nearest specialty wine retailer, or even easier, with any of the dozens of reputable online retailers, and for the price of just a few cups of fancy coffee, we can take home a bottle that might yield one of the tiny revelations that mark a wine lover’s deliciously endless journey.
Of course, as tasty as armchair travel can be, nothing beats sipping wine in the place it was made, which is where services like VinoVisit come in handy, especially if you live near or have the budget to travel to wine country.
It doesn’t matter how you go about it, the single imperative for anyone looking to broaden or deepen their appreciation for wine will always be to taste more of it, without getting stuck in the rut of sticking to what they know and like. Never heard of that grape, producer, or region? That’s the best reason to pop the cork and give it a try. Cultivate your curiousity, and deliciousness will follow.
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Curiosity is the first of the five virtues of a wine lover that I write about in my book The Essence of Wine, which you can find on sale in the VinoVisit gift shop.