In my last post entitled “My first wines”, I discussed how and when I started drinking (fake) wine during my university days and real wine during my graduate school days.
For the next 10 or so years (approximately 1978 – 1988), my wine drinking experiences did not evolve much. I enjoyed decent enough wine, and had a few great wine drinking experiences which showed me how ethereal wine drinking can be. Unfortunately one was truly wasted on me. As a favor for a friend, I wrote a pretty complex COBOL program for him after he complained his company’s IT department could not understand and deliver what he needed. He paid me $400 for the effort, but was so delighted that when I had him over for dinner and celebrated the success back in 1978, he brought over a bottle of 1961 Château Lafite. I think we drank it while eating beef strogonoff or something of the like. I just did not have the palate for great wine back then.
I also started to travel more internationally for work and was introduced to more varieties of food and wine. I remember once getting upgraded to First Class on Singapore Airlines and being served a 1975 Château Brane-Cantenac and really enjoying it. (The whole experience of First Class on Singapore Airlines in the late 1980s was a great experience!) I then found and bought two bottles of it while going through the Frankfurt Airport a few months later.
But the 1961 Chateau Lafite and the 1975 Chateau Brane-Cantenac were exceptions to my wine drinking, not the norm. However, they did provide a taste of how great wine drinking could be and generated more enthusiasm for drinking good wine as a regular activity.
It was really during 1988 – 1990 when living in New Zealand and drinking more wine with meals and out with friends that I really started to enjoy wine more. New Zealand is know for some great Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs, and has an excellent wine growing industry. Drinking more wine on a almost daily basis became the norm.
Then when I moved to Australia in 1997 for a long project, I started to collect and drink far better wines (including having a business dinner with 18 bottles of the 1986 Henschke Hill of Grace (for 14 of us!) – but that is a story for another posting!). I was fortunate to have a few good friends like Michael Axarlis and Rob Tudor who had very good palates and an appreciation for fine Australian wines and they got me headed in the right direction to better understand and appreciate how many different and great Australian wines there were.
They recommended and I started to collect some bottles including the 1992 Penfolds Grange, 1996 Lindeman St George, 1996 Penfolds 707, 1998 Bannockburn Pinot Noir, 1995 Yarra Yering Dry #1, etc., etc. I started to learn to appreciate some of the differences between different wines from different regions, different vintages of the same wine, and how sinful it is to drink a wine too early or too late in its maturation process.
When I moved permanently to Australia in 2000, I started to collect and sample even more wines and have been loving it ever since. For a while, I was so hooked on the quality and value of Australian wines that I drank very little of anything else. However, during the last several years, I have now been appreciating a broader variety of French, Spanish, Italian, and American wines.
Probably the biggest lesson I have learned through 35 years of wine buying and drinking is not to buy too much of a single wine and limit your tastings to a limited set of wines, as exploring the vast variety of great wines is a joy in itself, and no matter how much you really enough a particular wine, there is always a better one to be found.