Master Sommelier Andrea Immer is my go-to guru in the world of wine.
Why? Well, you'd be hard-pressed to find an expert with more qualifications. She earned the title of Master Sommelier (at the age of 30, I believe), was named Best Sommelier in America, she served as Wine and Spirits Consultant to Windows on the World, and hosts her own television program on Fine Living Network, to name a few.
But those prestigious accomplishments aren't what I love most about Andrea (yeah, we're on a first name basis...at least in my head). What keeps me coming back to her book, Great Wine Made Simple, time and again, is the fact that she's just so damn down to earth. She is all about de-mystifying wine and her positive, upbeat approach makes the process a joy from beginning to end.
I'm reading through GWMS again right now, and one passage struck me as particularly genius. If you've ever been intimidated by wine, especially in the context of - "Why do I love my $10 brand so much more than this $50 bottle? Do I have cheap taste?!" - keep this advice in mind:
"Quality is in the eye of the beholder, or at least the sensory aspect of it. You may recognize and respect the quality components and workmanship in a car or a home or a pair of shoes, but they may not be to your taste. Similarly, it isn't worth paying extra for a quality wine if it's not your style."
What a brilliant thought! As soon as I started to view wine (and evaluate and appreciate it) in the same way I would a new pair of shoes or a piece of furniture, it was an "a-ha" moment. Many of the same standards of craftsmanship and commerce, as well as the experience of the maker, apply to wine as they would other goods.
Try this one on for size:
"Quality spans the price spectrum, from bargain to mega-bucks bottlings. For everyday-priced wines, say in the $10 neighborhood, quality means a notably tasty wine that consistently stands out against similar-priced wines."
This bit of advice is also a gem. Think of it in terms of your favorite neighborhood restaurant - the food, lovingly hand-crafted and served with care, may be the best of its kind in the city. The prices are lower than the fancier place up the road, but not because the quality is inferior. Perhaps the rent in the less-tony part of town is more affordable, or the menus were printed on laser paper instead of card stock. You get the idea. Many factors are at work to determine the price of wine, and in so many cases a wonderful bottle can be had for a song.
That's all for today. For more of Andrea's awesome advice, check out Pairings with Andrea on Fine Living, or pick up a copy of Great Wine Made Simple. Enjoy them both with a great glass of wine!