Next Wednesday is the 6 year anniversary of a life changing decision: I signed up for my first wine class.
After a few weeks as an official working member of the wine industry, I was unsure if I was even ready. But, I opted in to a WSET Level 1 course anyway.
I left that 8 hour day with three things:
- A framework for wine learning
- The realization I had been doing it wrong for far too long.
Prior to that day, I struggled to put together all my wine knowledge I have acquired over the years. Bits and pieces but I had nothing to hold it together. A blog here, a YouTube video there, a book over there.
None of it stuck.
I believe the biggest mistake beginners make is trying to learn everything about wine at once.
Instead to learn about wine, you need to pick one of the following options and stick with it until you out grow it.
So, here’s four options to narrow your wine learning focus.
Don’t drink the world. Focus on one wine region.
#1 Pick one region to focus on
It’s fun to drink wines around the globe, but you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Going wide instead of deep means you’re only scratching the service.
Instead, dig into one region.
Here’s are four regions that offer value and a range of styles:
- Côte du Rhône, France
- Paso Robles, California
- Columbia Valley, Washington
- Spain (all of it!)
If you don’t have a go to region, pick one of the above.
Pick your favorite wine and focus on its wine grape variety.
#2 Pick one variety to focus on
If you want to taste the world, the alternative is to focus on a single variety.
Take Pinot Noir. You can drink examples of it from France, Germany, New Zealand, Argentina, the US and beyond. Depending on where it is grown and the winemaking style, Pinot Noir can have many different forms.
This is true for nearly all varieties.
What’s your favorite variety? Drink more of that!
This was my first wine book. And I owe nearly every success to it. I focused on what the author was doing to start my wine career.
#3 Pick a single wine personality to focus on
Critics and points get a lot of flack, but they are responsible for so many people getting into wine.
You should follow one, not all.
If you find someone whose tastes match yours, great! Draft behind their selections.
Don’t chase points and top reviews from everyone. You’ll end up disappointed.
This is true of big names likes Suckling and Parker, and of your favorite YouTube star or Vivino reviewer.
Find one wine curriculum—online or in-person—and follow it religiously.
#4 Pick one education provider to focus on
There are so many opportunities to learn about wine.
You can choose your own adventure to explore blogs and YouTube (like I did at random). Or you can sign up for an online or in-person course.
However, you can’t do everything.
So, pick one provider and absorb everything they have to offer.
What’s your path?
I’d love to know how you plan to learn more about wine.
If you’re unsure where to start, I’m always available to talk strategy and tactics. Hit reply and let’s discover your wine learning goals.
This Week’s Free-Run Juice
Free-run juice is a wine term for the grape juice that comes from their own weight prior to pressing. These are weekly tidbits that came out from my own wine exploring.
WSET Level 1 Course – Worth The Squeeze?
I was shocked to see that I paid $400 for WSET Level 1. And that was 6 years ago! I searched out other local Chicago providers and the price is still roughly same.
There are definitely cheaper options, but you get what you pay for.
Here’s my experience in a nutshell:
I sat in a beautiful space in the Merchandise Mart of Chicago and tasted a wonderful array of wines. I left on the fast track of courses built for wine professionals.
Not a wine pro and don’t plan to be? Well, WSET Level 1 might still be for you.
In addition to the pin and the paper, you get:
- Knowledge from certified, trained instructors
- Opportunity to taste multiple wines with your peers
- A proven framework for wine learning for industry professionals
- A test to validate your learning
That’s what you’re truly paying for compared to online classes that are free or even 25% of the price.
“Your Job Is Keeping Things Miserable”
That’s one piece of gold you’ll get in this great overview from Eater.
Dan of the Dan Does series dives into the scale of Francis Ford Coppola Winery. Its sheer volume of operations will have you saying, “Holy shit!” Just like Dan.
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