I was working in a client's cellar, unpacking, stocking, and just generally tidying up when they came in to ask if I could pull some wines for lunch. After the obvious "what's for lunch" questions, I asked how much he wanted to impress his guests. His direction was "savvy, but classic", and with a wink he was away.
I knew EXACTLY what to pull, and was excited for what was coming. No, nothing nefarious...but he was about to put into practice what he has been studying. A non-graded final exam, if you will. I was beyond thrilled to bear witness to his opening night. I dropped everything, tidied the cellar and got to polishing glasses.
Three wines later, as the mains were being cleared one of his buddies asked about the wine and upon finding out what it was, ribbed him for cheaping out. Not because it wasn't delicious AF, but because it wasn't a recognizable appellation to them. My heart filled with pride as he said "Burgundy is for those in the know. If you're only buying the prestigiously appellated wines, you are overpaying and missing out." WHAMMY! His friend piped down, lunch continued and that joyous smirk on his face stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.
After his guests had left, he come downstairs for the high five he so richly earned. He was thrilled at how comfortable he was now compared to a few months ago when we started working together. He originally reached out wanting to learn more about wine, but wanted to learn in private. I spent many evenings at the kitchen table with him and his Dad, teaching a customized curriculum focused of building skills to discuss wine with confidence and ease. He was clear from the word go that his buddies were all "wine guys" and as the newest collector in that group he wanted to get into fighting form quickly.
We started, as I always do, with the basics. Structure, more structure and style. I turned the regional deep dives into treasure hunts for structural elements that showcase vintage, aromatics that hint at winemaking decisions and how to separate the good from the bad and the ugly. They learned the style and structures they preferred and how to adjust a wine that may not be to their liking.
Everyone wants something different from wine education, and I love how many custom curriculums I have created so far and drilling down further with drop lines in a tone that is right for each client. Does everyone want to be a DB? No. Some want to impress sommeliers with their savvy, engage their boss on a topic they love, order more easily at restaurants and some just want to learn more about their collection as they build it.
In the world of "demystifying wine"; I'm happy to leave somethings to the imagination. Since it's just us here, I hate that approach; it turns learning into a gotcha trivia game that is not so dissimilar from having to know which sports-baller who hit the greatest number of things in a specific period of some game in 1967 in order to enjoy the show. Not my style. I believe that some things should remain a mystery....and I find great joy in the things I will never know about wines I love. Having more information does not always lead to a deeper understanding.
Finding education that provides the information and preparation for situations you want to feel more comfortable navigating is essential. One size never fits all, it's all about finding the right fit for you.