Wines of the month - Paul DeRose
Wine Discovery – Ask, Buy, Drink
In my May wine column from last year (“Trust What You Like”), I suggested that the best way to learn about wine is to find types of wine that you like and explore as many of those types as you can. Meanwhile, keeping a log of what you drink, so you don’t forget which you liked best. A wine column appeared a few weeks ago in the New York Times (4/11) that gave similar advice, but with a special twist. It recommended that you, the wine explorer, find a trustworthy advisor and a good wine shop. I liked this idea so much that I decided to recount the details. Ideally, the advisor should work at the shop and be passionate about wine, ensuring that they are familiar with most of the wines in the shop. You are then instructed to ask the salesperson/advisor to put together a mixed case of wine for you, six white and six red, which reflects the diversity of wine at its best. Of course, you should also give the salesperson your budget, $250 per case (about $20 a bottle) was recommended for the price of this do-it-yourself wine course. I agree, since this is about how much one has to spend in order to get a bottle that rises above the mundane, which is necessary for making the exercise worth while. After drinking each bottle with a meal and taking brief notes on each experience, thumbs up or thumbs down will suffice, you should then tell your advisor which of the twelve you liked and ask them to put together a new case of wine that reflects your personal preferences. This process should be repeated, as long as it remains fun, until you feel ready to strike out on your own (maybe quit your day job and become a sommelier, ha, ha).
Remember, the key ingredient to making this method a success is finding an advisor you can trust and sticking with them. Below I have listed suggested wine shops in the Washington, DC area in order of preference, as pertains to the competence and friendliness of the staff. I know this doesn't help those of you in other parts of the country, so I've also included a template list below that you or an advisor could use as a general guide.
MacArthur Beverages (DC)
Finewine.com (MD and VA)
Total Wine (VA)
Calvert Woodley (DC)
The Wine Harvest (MD)
An example of 12 diverse selections from around the world is given below by type, since brands will vary from shop to shop:
Whites: German Riesling, Burgundian Chardonnay, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, Italian Pinot Grigio, California Chardonnay
Reds: Australian Shiraz, New World Pinot Noir, Tuscan Sangiovese, California Zinfandel, Cote du Rhone, Chilean Bordeaux Blend