There is an interesting fact that everyone seems to know – wine is very much a social and lifestyle thing, not just a drink. “The Wine Life” is what I’ve always called it and in fact I close all my posts with “Enjoy the Wine Life” and even have a wine news site called “Wine Life Today”. MSN has copied me and called their wine section “Wine Life” (make no mistake, I’ve been using that for minimally 2 years before they put up that site). But the point is that wine has a distinct social element.
When exploring wines there is a distinct value chain, what I call a “wine life value chain”, that leads us to trying a new wine. Its worth examining. When making choices of which wine to try it typically goes like this:
Find trusted source –-> get recommendation from source –-> search for the wine –> purchase
If any point in this chain breaks down you likely won’t find a wine to your liking except by total dumb luck. Interestingly, this chain is inherently social in nature. Starting with the “trusted source”. You need to find one if you’re going to purchase a wine simply because wine not only has thousands and thousands of options but also because each of those option changes every single year! So even if you find a trusted source one year, you are forced to have some sort of interaction with that source over and over again because “good” wines will change every year.
So that leads to this question – what is a “trusted source”? And what is the best one out there? This is the topic of much debate. Some say magazines, because they have people constantly trying wines, by the hundreds, and can therefore give good pointers. But really you need to know what YOU like a little more intimately first then you can you the magazines. This “one-to-many” approach makes the “trusted source” suspect because its really hard to say if that particular publication parallels your own personal tastes on a consistent basis. They are more of a “tool” than THE source.
That extends to large chain stores with shelf talkers and websites. Interestingly, even Robert Parker will admit that he has his preferences which may not line up exactly with your own.
So what is a “trusted source” that can guide you on a wine adventure in a reliable way? The answer is really simple – it has to be someone who knows YOU. Your corner wine shop (if you have the luxury as I do in Joseph George) can be that source. These places make a living getting to know YOU and creating a peer to peer relationship and as he/she tries new wines they actually go “oh, this person is gonna love this stuff”. Another peer-to-peer relationship? You and your wine geek buddy! In this case, your wine geek buddy drinks with you or at least talks to you about wine and knows you. Really, this peer-to-peer wine relationship is pretty akin to the corner wine shop but even more intimate. This person knows you and can make that same connection – Oh you’re gonna
LOVE this stuff. I serve as that for my older brother. He calls me a “Second order” wine geek because he takes my recommendations and, in turn, passes them on to his friends because he’s the wine geek of his crew.
THAT is the key – a peer-to-peer relationship in which the source of the recommendation has a personal element to it. Somehow that source knows YOU and you know that source. Without that connection, the recommendation you’re getting if probably from a tool, a sort of compass to give you some idea of what to expect. A trusted source can point you to wines that YOU want and remove the risk from the rest of the value chain.
So find your trusted source, make a social connection, and stay in touch with them. Its really the sure fire way to get recommendations that can’t miss…
Enjoy the Wine Life!