As the old adage goes, there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Memorizing wine facts but not understanding the whys, the cause and effects, the contexts, and so on is like a student memorizing dates from a history book but missing the larger historical lessons. Almost every student at some point asks, why study history? So, why study wine? Let’s look at three reasons.
First, wine knowledge is within your grasp. At some point in their lives, most people have stared at rows of wine bottles on the shelf or at a long list of wines at a restaurant and wondered why wine has to be so confusing. I wish I could tell you its not—that there is a trick to understanding wine that makes you an instant master—but I can’t. The wine world is complicated. It is colossal. But it is also fun. Sure, drudging through the chemistry of the winemaking process, memorizing the 500+ recognized regions of Italy, or trying to pronounce some of the grapes (Agiorgitiko, anyone?) can be a bear…but it all offers an excuse to drink wine! The key to having fun with wine is to not take it so seriously. There is no “perfect” wine or pairing so don’t worry about getting it “right”. After a few building blocks are laid in your knowledge base, the mystique around wine is less about snobbery and more about intricacy, inviting you to know more.
The more you learn about wine the more you will enjoy it!
This brings us to our second reason to study wine: the better you understand it, the more you enjoy it. You could just drink that Chardonnay but if you know that it comes from a vineyard that has been owned by the same family for seven generations, that each grape that went into it was hand selected, that the vintage was cool so the acidity levels peaked, that the wine was aged on lees for six months in neutral oak barrels, and that it pairs wonderfully with clam chowder, then you are likely to enjoy each sip that much more. Knowing a wine’s story is a key component in appreciating the beauty and art that is wine.
Finally, wine is part of our culture and heritage. There is evidence that wine has been produced for about 9000 years, predating even our earliest civilizations. Historically, it was often more hygienic than drinking water! It is interwoven in our cuisine, holidays, celebrations, rituals, and religion. It is multidisciplinary and can touch on subjects of globalization, environmental change, economics, and social equality not to mention health and technology. Perhaps most importantly, wine has become a symbol of the best parts of what it means to be human: a congenial gathering of friends, a meal shared with family, or the quiet savoring of an everyday moment.
No matter where you are at in your wine journey, there is always something new to discover in each bottle. I hope that you find your own reasons to pursue wine knowledge. Knowing wine leads to enjoying wine, and enjoying wine is a way to enjoy life.