This is the third month for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC3) and as the winner of last month’s challenge, My Custard Pie had the “honor” of choosing this month’s theme: Possession.
After learning of the theme, I was a bit at a loss–had the theme been “Obsession” I could have easily written for days about my obsession with wine (this is primarily a wine blog after all). “Protection” (as in the way that I needed to protect wine in my cellar from the time when the basement flooded) or even “Depression” (what I feel when I think about all the time and money I have spent on my “Obessession”) would have been perhaps easier to tackle.
“Possession” proved to be far more elusive.
So I did what I usually do when I get a bit of writer’s block, I grab a corkscrew and my favorite glass, and I headed down into the basement to find some inspiration. As I was perusing my “cellar” to decide what bottle I would open to provide the necessary mental lubrication, it hit me:
I sure do possess a lot of wine.
Now that might certainly be obvious–most people who are passionate about wine enough to start a wine blog are going to own more than a few bottles, but there is more to it than that. The other night, I conducted a wine tasting for a group of ten people who certainly liked wine, but did not really have an idea on how to go about starting to create their own wine “cellar.” Wine can certainly be an intimidating subject: there seem to be so many rules (red wine with meat, serving temperatures, choice of stemware); there are a bunch of people out there (wine writers, critics, bloggers) telling you what you should buy; and there are so many wines from which to choose, it can be crippling just trying to select a wine for dinner that night, let alone trying to select some wines to hold onto for a while.
One of the people during the tasting expressed a desire to start a wine cellar of his own and wondered if I had any advice for him. My first thought was: “DON’T DO IT! Invest the money you would spend on wine instead–even opening a low interest money market account will enable you to retire early and live lavishly for years!”
I kept that thought to myself, since expressing that point of view at a paid wine tasting was likely poor form, not to mention certain to negate any future requests for me to conduct such tastings.
Instead, I gave him a few quick pointers:
1. Keep track of your wine. Most people who just get started buying wine rarely have more than a couple dozen bottles and might not see the need to keep an inventory. Well, those bottles seem to multiply faster than even the most promiscuous rabbit. I use Cellar Tracker, which is a fantastic free online tool (there are some added benefits if you contribute to the site). There are certainly others (particularly those adapted for hand-held devices), but you really need to start keeping track as soon as possible.
2. Don’t worry so much about temperature control. I have ranted about this before, but it certainly bears repeating. Unless you are planning to hold onto bottles for a considerably long time (more than 10 years) or you are buying wine as an investment (a really bad idea according to Joe Roberts), I would not be overly concerned about buying an expensive temperature controlled storage unit. Keep the wine in the coolest part of the house where there will not be great fluctuations in temperature and you should be fine.
3. When you find something you like buy more than one bottle. I usually try and buy either 4 or 6 bottles of any given wine. (Why 4 or 6 and not 3 or 5? I am also a math geek and not real fond of prime numbers–yes, I have issues.) This enables me to try the wine at different times and see how it develops–a particularly fascinating aspect of wine.
4. Get over stupid purchases. Hey, it happens. You see a “great deal” and you buy a bunch without ever tasting it. When you eventually get some in the glass, you realize you made a horrible mistake. If the wine is bad (either corked or just plain awful) most retailers (both online and brick and mortar) will take it back (so don’t pour it down the drain!). If not, you will just need to get over your stupidity–anybody want my 5 bottles of Pink Truck (think a really sweet white zin)?
5. It’s corked: a shame, but not your fault. This one I still have trouble with myself: friends are over (or worse–you bring a bottle to their house) and your special bottle is corked. You might feel as if it is your fault since you are a wine guy and you somehow should have known, but you can’t. It has happened to everyone, don’t worry about it.
6. Drink the wine that people bring over with them–either that night or the next time. A few years ago, I adopted the mantra: “You bring it, we drink it.” I used to graciously accept the bottles of wine people brought over and add them to my collection. I tried to eventually serve it the next time they would come over for dinner, but that became cumbersome. Now, unless they expressly indicate it is a gift for later consumption, I am going to pull the cork that night with them. What if it does not go well with the meal? So what? Life is too short. Besides, they likely want to taste it and might even want to know what I think about the wine–I did not say that all of my friends were all that bright. (Note: This rule does not apply for the “gag gift” of a box of Franzia, which no one really thinks is all that funny.)
7. Don’t wait for special occasions. I always say “better a day too soon than a day too late.” There will always be more great bottles of wine to drink so don’t get overly caught up in waiting for the “right” occasion. Open a special bottle because it is Tuesday. Or Thursday. In my mind, you don’t ever truly “possess” a wine until you drink it.
8. Have a favorite glass. Just because.
9. Drink what you like. You want to have Sauvignon Blanc with steak? Cabernet Sauvignon with fluke? Go ahead! You’re not being graded here. There are reasons for some of those rules, but (cliché alert) “all rules were made to be….”
10. Develop your own strategy for building your cellar. I started with one region and branched out, others want to try as many regions and varieties as possible. Some buy wine based on the pretty label. Buy a book. Read blogs. Ask your local wine shop. Buy only from Wines Til Sold Out. Take an approach that works for you. There are no right answers.
Last, (no number here since that would make eleven and that is a prime number) remember to have fun and drink with friends and family–wine does a great job of helping to bring people together–be sure to use it that way.