As a continuation from my first post on my journey to wine, I wanted to finish up my story on my curiosity of wine and how it is has grown into a hobby that I’m very passionate about. You might never look at wine the same way again.
…I ventured back to the wine store with considerably more knowledge ready to give my new found hobby a second chance. I realized very quickly that once I purchased a periodical telling me about wine, I was doomed. I read articles in the Wine Spectator; I then purchased “Wine for Dummies” and soon was consumed with some knowledge and began tasting varieties to see which ones best suited my palate. I recall being taken back by the cost of my new hobby as wine has a very wide open pricing structure. Ex. Opus One sells for nearly $200 a bottle, while a bottle of Malbec sells for under $10.00.
My choice was based on economics, call me cheap, but I wouldn’t buy Tiger Woods golf clubs if I was just learning the game of golf, either.
I chose the Diseno, Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. I knew nothing about the Malbec other than it had an attractive price point and I overheard another shopper saying it was an excellent wine. I made one commitment when I began drinking wine and that was to always buy two bottles of the same wine. Why? Because if I liked the wine I could try it again another evening to evaluate the complexity and consistency of the notes I took on each bottle of wine. Plus, as I soon learned, my new hobby attracted a neighborly following that allowed for me to learn more about the culture of people around me.
I recall opening the wine, firing up my laptop and going to Google.com. I am an information junkie – I wanted to know what others thought of my buy? Did I get a good deal? What is a Malbec? Where did it originate? What makes it different than a Merlot? Where exactly is Mendoza Argentina? What is there to do in Mendoza?
After pouring the wine, I examined the glass and noticed the dark hues of red from the skins of the grape used for this wine. I placed my nose in the glass and smelled the aroma’s. I took my first sip and I realized this hobby was EXACTLY what I was looking for at this time period in my life.
As I sipped away on my wine I looked up the answers to my questions, a Malbec is a grape that is native to France’s Bordeaux region and is considered one of the five native red grapes of this particular region. It did not grow particularly well in the Bordeaux region and was exported to the higher elevations of Argentina where it grew a most delicious grape for wine. I also found information about Mendoza, Argentina that lead me to believe the US Dollar, while struggling overseas, was actually able to provide ample buying power in this region and the cost of the wine was a benefactor of this purchasing power. I found maps of Mendoza and was soon able to locate exactly where my bottle originated. But with all my answers, I was only compelled to dive deeper into research as I had a plethora of new questions that needed answered.
At this point, I made another move in my life. I decided to relocate to the South Florida community of Boca Raton. It was here that I met a gentleman in Jim Stephanis that brought my wine studies full circle. To this day, I’ve never met a more talented, enthusiastic salesman than the 78 year old Greek gentleman that warmly greeted me at the local wine store. He educated me about the various ways wine is fermented, the geography of wine and most importantly the way wine can influence nearly every aspect of your life.
Jim will never get enough credit for his wine knowledge, but he holds designations from UC Davis, a leader in the wine industry. He once told me that he made his first batch of wine at age 7! Jim quickly took me under his wing as an understudy teaching me that wine can be fermented in three particular ways: oak barrels, cement barrels or stainless steel. Each way will significantly impact the way the wine tastes. For example, Chardonnay made in the United States can have an aggressive “oaky” taste as a result of placing the wine in an oak barrel and then adding oak chunks floating in the wine during fermentation. Or, that stainless steel if not properly grounded can be shocked through static electricity and will ruin the fermentation process. I truly enjoy seeing Jim to this day as I purchase wine and talk over my broadened wine knowledge; I think it has been rewarding to him that my interest has lead me to complete my own studies. Case and point, I was 26 years old, I now had a way to connect with a man who was nearly 3 times my age. Proof again that wine knowledge not only improved my general world studies, but also allowed me to relate to people with generational gaps.
My next blog I will move past the importance of knowledge of wine regions and actually venture into a specific wine. Until then – stay thirsty my friends!