Wine is fun whether you know a lot about it or virtually nothing, but the more you know the more exciting each pour becomes.Β I am most definitely not a sommelier, but I am absolutely an enthusiast with a good palate.Β Travel has played a large part in the never ending pursuit, adding so much enjoyment, rare experience and memory. Here are a few reflections accompanied by tips and ideas for people deciding whether it’s fun to know the finer points of what you’re tasting… or if it’s better to just get hammered.

Drink Regional Wine, Wherever You Go…

Don’t order Californian wine in Italy, just don’t. Prices and quality are largely best if you stick to continental wines of your destination,Β plus you occasionally get access to non distributed but sought after wines, which either don’t make their way to wherever you live, or are charged at a gigantic premium. There are so many fantastic new world regions producing incredible wine, that if you’re true fan, you’d be a fool not to try it for reference, at the very least. I tasted the most remarkably obscure and wonderful wine of my life in Manarola, Italy. I asked a local sommelier for something non distributed and received a white wine like nothing I’d experienced.

Stick To Bold Wines On Planes, Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Pairings…

Airlines are investing more than ever in their beverage programs, with Emirates rumored to have recently spent $500 million on theirs. If you’re lucky enough to travel in business or first class you’ll likely get to try some interesting stuff. Sample as many as you can, taking names of any that stand out, for fun comparison at home down the line. The differences can be fascinating. Pay attention to things like how long a bottle has been open and what temperature it’s being served. Pinot Noir’s are often best served ever so slightly chilled, while Bordeaux’s and bolder wines are best at room temperature. If your red wine is too cold, wait, or cup your hands around the glass. Also, be sure to ask your cabin crew for food pairings, they should know them!

Work Your Way Around The World One Grape At A Time…

I drank wine for years before developing an understanding of the flavor profiles and unique characteristics of certain grapes and regions. Over the last few years I’ve stuck to one region or varietal at a time, perhaps for a month or two and now am more often than not spot on in blind tastings with knowledge of the grape and where it was grown. Try as many wines of the same grape or region as possible, when you feel like you “know it”, move to another. I also drink less and buy more expensive wine now, which really adds to the pleasure and terroir you can taste.

Do Vineyard Tours, They’re Often Set In Beautiful Places…

Australia, Cape Town, San Francisco, Vancouver, France (et al), Spain, Auckland, Italy, Portugal, Argentina, even Sofia, Bulgaria. All of these cities and countries feature incredible vineyards with unique processes of making wine, complete with complimentary gorgeous views. While at a vineyard you’ll find really easy setups to ship wine internationally at great rates. In Australia and New Zealand it can actually be much cheaper to export than to buy and take it back to the hotel. In all cases, definitely see if your credit card has any benefits (like free tastings) and see if there are any private guides who can get you into private vineyards for the most authentic stuff!

Drink The Best Bottle First…

A lot of thought goes into proper enjoyment of a great wine. Before you open something meaningful be sure to research suggested decanting times, opening the bottle early enough and pouring it into something that gives it the surface area necessary to take on its best form. A great wine really, really does change as it gets air. People often open “the good stuff” after they’ve already had some (too many) drinks, when your taste buds and sense of smell are weakening. Nothing wrong with starting with other bottles if you’re just having tastes, but opening a fine wine after six gin and tonics isn’t going to leave you with much to taste.Β Crack the good stuff first, if you go for another one just have something palatable.

Look For Wines Produced With Care…

There are plenty of exceptions, but many of the finest new world (non French) wines would never let outside hands touch their grapes or decide how long to leave them in oak, steel or any of the other paramount decisions which shape the taste. At any price point you’ll often find tasty, passionate results from wines which are grown, produced and bottled by the same company. In France this is less common, where wine makers and grape growers largely remain separate and many of the best wines are grown and made by different people but in new world regions like the US, it’s great to find estate bottled. Try to look for that on the back of a label if in doubt…

Try The Same Wine From Different Vintages…

It’s hard to explain tannins to people. The easiest way to explain how tannins and bottling change wine over time is just to try it. Find a wine you like and see if you can find an older vintage and a more recent vintage. Perhaps try a 2014 and a 2006, or something along that ratio of time. Without a doubt you’ll taste an interesting and enjoyable difference between the newer and older bottles, generally finding the older bottle to have a longer, more complex and in some cases smoother finish. This is particularly true with Barolo’s and Bordeaux’s, which are designed for age more than Californian or South African wine.

Bring A Bottle Home From Every Place You Go…

My cellar doesn’t have a very impressive price tag. There are no 1976 Petrus or other fabled wines in there, but its personal memories are priceless, as cheesy as that sounds. I have wines that mean far more to me than the price tag, and in the words of my father in law, I can almost taste the soil, sun or air that I remember so vividly from each place they were sourced. Most countries allow a duty and tariff free allowance of two regularly sized bottles per person, so be sure to never come home without a great memory ever again. Same goes for liquor as well…