The best way to learn about wine
I was thinking today about the best way to learn about wine. I'd travelled down to Devon to see my son (he's boarding at school) and attend a meeting. After the formalities were over we went together to a coffee shop for some hot chocolate, an then popped in to a record shop on the high street.
Now this place is about as far away as you can get from HMV. It is run by someone who's clearly a music enthusiast, and as well as carrying the latest chart items it has a display section of mid-priced classics. I've bought a few things here before, so this time I asked for advice. The shop owner was really helpful, and I came out with Joni Mitchell's Blue. I'm embarassed I don't already know her stuff, but this is a really brilliant album.
There's so much music out there, how do you choose what to listen to? Which new avenues should you explore? What are the 'benchmarks'? It's a similar problem faced by the newbie wine drinker. While modern retail offers amazing selections at amazingly keen prices, it's difficult to know where to start.
A shop, properly run by an enthusiast whose main drive is passion for the product, has to be the best place. If you have a local wine merchant with a good range and staff who care, then that's surely the best way to learn about wine. Of course, I think you should be making good use of critics and writers - and websites like this - but then there's the issue of finding the wines that are being talked about.
If you have a good merchant, use them, and be prepared to pay slightly more for the wine than the cheapest price on wine-searcher. You are getting, in the price of the bottle, the benefit of a relationship that could be your best means of discovering new wines, tailored to your palate and interests. That's got to be worth something.