The Wine Gang challenge


How do you buy smarter and drink better wines? That’s the question that was posed to us winebloggers by The Wine Gang and Robert McIntosh from Wine Conversation. It’s all  part of an effort to showcase winebloggers to wine lovers at the upcoming Wine Gang Christmas Fair  at Vinopolis on Nov.7th. 5 lucky bloggers are being invited to join The Wine Gang that day.

Here’s my 2 cents on how to buy smarter and drink better….

When I was 20 I came to London for the first time. I was here for the summer, had a student visa to work before my last year of university and I lived in a 2 bedroom flat in Maida Vale with 7 other people. It was a bit of a tight squeeze but it was fun! Most of my memories consist of drunken nights in the pub followed by late nite bull sessions kicking back Mateus and £2.99 Bardelino, Chianti and Valpolicello from the local Indian shop.

That was my introduction to wine and for years afterwards, I looked back fondly on that summer and didn’t give much thought to the wine other then that I liked it. Fast forward to Washington, D.C. 2002, made redundant by 9/11, looking for something to keep me going til I could get back on my feet. Ended up working in fine dining and that is when I was re-introduced to wine but not only re-introduced, I was educated. Up until that time, I had only vague notions of food and wine matching. I knew people did it for a living but I had never actually experienced it. Part of my training as a server was a weekly food and wine matching session with the restaurant sommelier. Wow! All of a sudden the fog surrounding the mysteries of wine was lifted. It all started to make sense to me. How a creamy chardonnay would complement that lobster or alternatively how the acidity of a dessert wine could cleanse my palate, readying me for the next bite.

I not only started bombarding the sommelier with questions, I also started to hang around my local wine shop and attend as many tastings as I could. Always asking questions, lots of questions. Where does it come from? What’s a varietal? How does the oak get in there? Why does this make my mouth pucker? Basic questions really but they were the stepping stones to my wine education. I wouldn’t say that’s how I gleaned all my information about wine but the more I asked, the more I realized how vast was the world of wine and the more I wanted to learn about this universe. It’s a complicated, neverending story.

So how can you learn about wine? It’s easy, just ask. Most of the genuine people I’ve met in the wine world are generous, eager, friendly and enthusiastic about sharing their wine knowledge. We want others to enjoy wine as much as we do, we don’t want you to be intimidated by this old grape juice.  That’s why I started blogging. I thought, I live in London and have all these amazing opportunities to try wines that previously I was only ever able to read about, so why not share that excitement and enthusiasm and maybe fire the imagination of some unknown person in a distant corner of the globe. You may be saying,I don’t know anything about wine. Well, what’s stopping you from picking up a magazine, reading a blog or a book, going to a local winetasting -don’t just sit there, participate and listen to what others think as well. I’ve learned so much from other winetasters, sometimes I agree, sometimes not but it’s always fun.

Gradually, you’ll learn you’re palate and what appeals and doesn’t. I read somewhere, “trust your palate” and it’s true because at the end of the day, you’re the one drinking it but with a bit of self-education (read drinking lots of different styles and varieties of wine with a little guidance) you’ll be surprised at how much more sophisticated your palate will become. Soon you’ll be able to distinguish the difference between Old World/ New World, shiraz/syrah, etc. and isn’t that a kick in the pants! That’s not to say you should ignore the experts but use them as a springboard to develop your own tastes. So get drinking and start asking is my advice, I know I (still) am. Cheers!


  1. thank you very much – good advice. I started in a similar way, by getting advice from my local (university) oddbins staff. Eventually decided to take the WSET exams as a non-professional and eventually making it into the trade


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