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Still a learner

By Jamie Goode

In any journey, it seems appropriate to occasionally cast a backward glance, to see how far you have progressed. This is an exercise I regularly take when it comes to seeing how I've progressed in my wine knowledge. I first started taking wine seriously some eight years ago; this coincided with my first pay packet -- after all, it would have been difficult to fund a wine habit on a student's income. Since then, I've learned quite a bit. I have read many books, toured wine country in three different continents and even grown my own wine grapes. I've discussed wine with fellow geeks on the internet. Most importantly, I have drunk several thousand different wines, in all manner of contexts, from mega-tastings to quiet dinners at home. Yet despite accumulating all this knowledge, I feel I've barely scratched at the surface of what there is to know about wine. I'm very much still a learner.

Yet I don’t find this non-startling revelation at all depressing; rather, it is a source of encouragement. For me, part of the enduring appeal of wine is its all-but limitless variety. I've heard it said that satisfaction in life comes from having an unachievable goal, yet one which presents you with small victories along the way, which help to keep you on the journey. I tend to agree. Wouldn't it be a rather disillusioning exprience to finally achieve your one primary goal in life? Where would you go then? The fact is, in the world of wine, there is simply too much information for one individial ever to assimilate. Across the globe there are hundreds of different wine regions, many tens of thousands of different producers, and goodness knows how many different wines. And then you have to factor in the temporal element -- each vintage is different, good producers go bad, bad producers improve, wineries change hands, new vineyards are planted and so on -- which increases the complexity to brain-hurting levels.

So in some sense, wine novices and professionals are very much in the same boat: whatever our perceived levels of expertise, we are all learners. This is a humbing thought. For me, it is also an exciting prospect. No matter how hooked by the wine bug I become, I'll never run out of things to learn. And for those hardened professionals, with jaded palates, who feel like they know all there is to be known about wine, my message is simple: you need to expand your horizons and go and learn some more!