ABBY NASH: What to do when the wine bug bites? Educate yourself. Here's a great example of an area where doing your homework can really pay off.
US wine shops have come a long way in the last 20 years with respect to selection, pricing, and knowledgeable staff. Before 1980, most store floor space was devoted to spirits and jug wines, with a little ghetto in the back for wines from around the world.
In my home state, New York, changes in fair trade laws in the 1970s removed barriers to discount pricing. Now, every big city and many small ones offer greatly reduced markups and quantity discounts.
The most important advice I give wine buyers is to drink what they like. Forget about wine critics or I or anyone else says you should drink. For those who'd like some guidance trying new wines, I'll highlight some of the resources out there.
The most influential publications are Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator. Parker is very controversial, owing to his meteoric ascendancy to the top of his field. He accepts no advertising. Even his critics concede he is incorruptible and very consistent. Less appreciated is his gift for writing.
The other consumer pub at the top is the Wine Spectator. This is a must for both wine consumers and the trade. Though it often descends into hyping its own ratings, the features on individual producers, the news, collecting, and travel pieces are very good.
All the consumer food mags have wine columns. My favorite is Gerald Asher's "Wine Journal" in Gourmet. Many wine geeks consider him the world's best wine writer. I also like The New York Times for Frank Prial's column in the Wednesday "Living" section, and all the good deals offered in wine shop ads therein. Other excellent pubs include The Wine News, Wines & Spirits, Decanter, The Vine, and the Wine Trader.
Very useful also are specialized publications, like Stephen Tanzer's The New York Wine Cellar. Orley Ashenfelter's Liquid Assets tracks and interprets auction sales has tips on travel to wine-producing areas and lists fine restaurants with reasonable corkage charges.
There's an abundance of wonderful books. Most of the top wine writers are Brits, like Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson, Oz Clarke, Clive Coates, and Michael Broadbent. The US is very well represented by Matt Kramer, Robert Parker, Alexis Bespaloff, Kevin Zraly, The Wine for Dummies series, and others. Burton Anderson's books on Italian wine are the best.
An annotated bibliography is accessible from this site. Also useful are wine shop newsletters. Many big stores have free newsletters, which are not only advertisements but informative as well. Examples are Crossroads and Sherry Lehmann in New York City, Zachys in Scarsdale, New York; Pops in Highland Park, New York; Bertelli's in Clifton, New Jersey; and MacArthur's, Mayflower, and Pearson's in Washington, DC-- a town that's a treasure trove of wine bargains.
Very good selection and pricing are found in mail order California shops, like The Wine Club and Stafford's. Free winery newsletters also include wine discounts, along with good editorial copy. Examples are Bonny Doon and Ridge Vineyards in Santa Cruz, California; Andrew Quady in Madera, California; Chandon in Napa, and many more.
Other resources include vintage charts. I don't have much use for these. Better to stick to the best producers year in and year out. They'll make better wine in bad years than mediocre producers will in good years.
Consumer tastings are advertised in wine and food publications. Here, consumers in the trade mingle. They include both standup tastings and conducted sit-down seminars. I very highly recommend these as a great way to taste many wines, chat with the people who make them, and make new wine-loving friends. These include The New York Wine Experience and California Wine Experience, held by The Wine Spectator, the Albany American Wine Festival, Monterey Wine Festival, and others.
And I particularly recommend joining local tasting groups. How else can you taste eight 1985 Bordeaux at the same time, hopefully with peers who have something to say? It's also a great way to meet people when you're new in town.
Last but by no means least are classes, like those at the International Wine Center in New York City. So when the wine bug bites, there are plenty of remedies.
Next, we pay a visit to the wine shop.
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Join Abby Nash, lecturer in the Hotel School, for the basics of wine appreciation in a 'How To' format. Starting with your basic senses, you'll learn to discern flavor through smell and taste. Moving on, you'll learn the art of buying, serving and storing wines, how to open and preserve wines, manage the restaurant experience, and select wine and food pairings.
This video is part 7 of 10 in the Wine Appreciation series.