No, I'm not talking about how wine develops within the bottle. I'm going to talk about how a wine lover develops- literally, the stages that most people go through in their love affair with wine. Much like a person develops from a baby into a toddler into a child, followed by teenager, young adult, mature adult, old person, so goes a person's development in the wine world. Here are the comparable stages as I see them:
This is a person that is barely into wine. They have tried white zinfandel, maybe some riesling. They know little to nothing about wine, and honestly don't really care. All of us started at this point. What they drink- Beringer White Zinfandel, over ice, out of a paper cup.
This is the person that has had a couple of wine experiences. The phrase you hear a lot from them is "I don't like red wine- it gives me a headache." No, the quantity of red wine you drank the last time you had it gave you the headache. They are starting to show a spark of interest in wine, but bright shiny objects may distract them as well. What they drink- Yellow Tail Shiraz.
This is where it starts to get a little more serious. This is the person that has tried a couple of varietals, and knows that they like one in particular. Think of your friend that, no matter where you go, she orders a glass of Pinot Grigio. You could pour an unoaked chardonnay in her glass, and she would never be able to tell the difference, but that's okay- it makes her happy. These people eat at Olive Garden a lot. What They Drink- Mondavi Coastal Chardonnay.
You will recognize the change from childhood into teenager by a couple of different things- first of all, they will start talking about specific labels of wine. This is the one that says "oh, I had the Baileyana Chardonnay last week, and really liked it." The second indication is that they will also utter the phrase "I never thought I would spend $24 on a bottle of wine. Can you believe it?". Finally, they will get a subscription to the Wine Spectator. This is a fun stage to interact with people in. They admit that they have a lot to learn, and are willing to try new things. What they drink- Crios Malbec.
This is the most irritating phase. This is the person that not only has subscriptions to Wine Spectator, but also Wine Enthusiast, Wine Advocate, Wine and Spirits, etc, etc, etc. They are also shown to be "point whores" and will not buy anything that scored less than 90 points somewhere. They will toss around winery names like Silver Oak, Jordan, Opus One, and Caymus because they think it makes them sound like a big player. The best test to see if someone is in this stage is to ask them "What do you think of the Grand Crus out of Gevrey Chambertin from '04?" and see if their face goes pale or not. Even though they can be annoying, retail shop owners and restaurant owners love this person- they are the one spending way beyond their means on wine, and hiding the credit card receipts from their wives. What they drink- the 1997 Caymus Special Select, decanted in their "crystal duck" decanter, out of their Riedel "Cabernet" Glass, at exactly 64 degrees, because that's what James Laube told them to do.
This is the person that has actually thought about their wine collection at home. They have organized it into wines to drink now, over the next 5 years, and wines to age. They have moved beyond the big labels, and have started searching out wines that they really like, including Burgundy and Bordeaux. They will likely be on a couple of mailing lists, and can honestly tell you the difference between the three different syrahs they bought from their favorite producer last week. These folks really like to do blind tastings with their friends- they may, however, try to "one up" each other by pulling out some ridiculous stuff every once in a while. What they drink- 2007 Decendientes de Jose Palacios "Petalos", because it's good and few people have heard of it.
This is the wine lover that has been doing it for a long time. They drink particular Bordeauxs or Burgundies, not because its fashionable, but because it's what they have done for decades. These are the folks that love to pull out the 1959 Romanee Conti, just to see a younger person's face light up at the chance of drinking a once-in-a-lifetime wine. I love talking to these type of people, and relish looking at their collections. What they drink- Whatever they want to. They have been at this for too long to worry about what others think of their selections- maybe a 1998 Jaboulet La Chapelle, just to see if it's improving.
So, no matter what stage you are at, don't worry. Like I said yesterday, if you think it tastes good, then drink it. Your tastes will likely change over the years, as will what you consider acceptable to pay for wine. For now, enjoy the stage you are in, find some other people that want to learn, and open a bottle.
Try the 2006 Whitehall Lane Napa Cab. However, don't drink it right away. I opened a bottle yesterday, and it showed chocolate, cassis, and a bit of a vegetal note that comes from its youth. I would give this wine at minimum a year or two in your basement before cracking it. It should cost you $35-$40 retail.