My Breakthrough Wine Experience

This is off-topic, but I subscribe to a wine blog that’s having a contest for people to write about their breakthrough wine experience. I didn’t feel like registering and everything else that goes along with it, and no real expectation to win, but I felt like telling my story, so here it is. Feel free to comment with your own breakthrough story.

I didn’t start my adult life as a wine drinker. My husband and I moved to Upstate New York to go to graduate school. We didn’t have much spare money so we’d drive around looking for free and cheap things to do. The multitude of those types of activities was to go to the wineries in the Finger Lakes. At the time, most wine tastings were free or extremely cheap.

We’d go to wineries and occasionally buy a few bottles of wine we liked. It was a bit of a shock to move away from the region and to have to buy wine in stores where we didn’t know what the wines we were buying tasted like. That was a hard transition for us.

But the years rolled by a bit and I was working on field support for a software company. I made a trip to the main office to meet with a customer and the project’s account manager. Since the customer was a gourmand, the account manager took us for an elaborate meal, complete with the “hot” wine at the time, Opus 1, which was still fairly new to the market and still big news.

At the time, about 15 years ago, I think it was $75 for a split (a small fortune to pay for a bottle of wine in a restaurant) and we drank two of them. It was the talk of the office when the account manager put in his expenses. The customer and I were totally impressed and I thought the wine delicious. But one of my colleagues asked me if I thought the wine worth the price. I couldn’t answer that question. The more we discussed it, the more I realized my palate wasn’t sophisticated-enough to taste the nuances of that fine a wine to tell whether or not it was, well, fine wine. So, I went on a bit of a wine journey talking to “experts” to learn how they “knew” a wine was really worth a high price and I learned something most of them don’t even agree. My breakout experience was to realize that much of wine tasting is just a matter of each of our preferences.

A wine could cost a fortune but if you don’t happen to like it then it’s just not worth that much money to you. It’s not a good deal to you even if it’s marked-down. It could be the finest wine according to every expert but it’s still not worth the money to you.

As the years have gone by and I’ve attended and put on quite a few wine tastings, I just see more and more evidence of that at each tasting, where the blind tastings reveal the group likes something besides the most expensive or most lauded wine.