Too early for wine talk? Never.
I received some wonderful emails this week from folks who have stuck it out since the Road to Wine Expert. Thank you.
However you've arrived, you're part of my wine community. Or better put, wine tribe. (Kudos to Elizabeth Schneider, author and podcast host of Wine for Normal People, for sharing this term with me).
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that community is incredibly valuable and fragile.
As we retreated to our homes, we tried to stay connected through virtual wine tastings. And then as the virus ebbed, we were able to gather, rub elbows, and nearly clink glasses.
It felt normal...er, and it was nice.
Now, things are changing again. Back and forth, we go.
So, how can we cultivate wine community in these strange times?
First of all, wine should unite far more than it divides. And for that reason, don't tolerate anyone who puts down what you like.
My cardinal rule for wine lovers, especially those who feel like wine novices, is this:
Drink what you like. And take pride in what you like.
Does it taste good? Does it make you happy?
Perfect, you know far more about wine than so many "experts."
Second, become a patron of a great wine shop, restaurant or winery. Yes, there can be logistical challenges, especially with changing restrictions, but your loyalty will be rewarded.
Discounts, possibly. Access to special wine offerings, maybe. Free wine knowledge? In droves.
One of my favorite ways to learn about new wines without tasting them (still no substitute) is to subscribe to email offerings from great wine shops.
Here are a few of my favorites online wine retailers:
- Vin Chicago (super biased, because I used to work there) — they offer a spectrum of wines. Although, I'm not a fan of their new website. You'll have to pick a location before signing up.
- Envoyer Fine Wines — I've bought from them for a long time, great selection and education on many wines, particularly from Europe.
- SommSelect (created by Ian Cauble from the Somm documentary series) provides daily offers on classic and "trendy" wines from all over the globe.
You don't have to buy anything, and they'll provide you a free wine education. All from the comfort of your inbox.
As for actual online wine communities, there are none worth recommending. But if you know of one or two, please share.
Facebook is a drag. There is far too much putting down verse propping up.
Instagram is chock full of people sharing what I call "bottle porn." I'm no longer impressed by your expensive drink.
Older message boards...yikes. It's grown men acting as internet bullies and sharing war stories of big steaks and expensive wine from their keyboards. I'll pass.
I was so fed up that I even tried creating my own wine community online. It was difficult, and I failed.
So, my advice for wine learning and building your wine community is as follows:
Start small. Construct your circle slowly. Befriend someone in the wine industry (at a shop, restaurant, or a safe place on the internet).
And if you can't find one, I'll be your friend. Just reach out.