It has been about ten years since I started drinking wine seriously, meaning studying relevant knowledge to make a better and specific choice; varietals, provenance, vintner, etc. And now, I can barely remember what wine was exactly the starting point of all these. Probably Smoking Loon Zinfandel introduced from the screen of my office building elevator, saying something like a ‘good choice.’ I had to visited several supermarkets around the suburb to find it. Yes, it was very, very impressive (wink, wink).
That starting point, to make the endless and lifelong journey to the wine is very hard to find for casual drinkers. I see a lot of people take sweet wine such as Moscato here, but in most cases that doesn’t take us very far. More than anything, it is because sweet wine minority in the whole sphere of wine in terms of flavor profile as the dessert is always regarded as afterthought that coming after savory part of the meal. Sweet wines, in most cases, will not make you more interested in majority of wine drinking with savory part of the meal. And even if you want to move on, it is not very likely give the clue. In other words, most likely you have to start over, entering totally new realm feeling lost and confused.
Considering this, I come to prepare the mapping diagram of wine for my students, to let them help understanding the very, very basic of relationship we need to know when start drinking more seriously. This is real quick and dirty work, and barely scratch the surface. However, I believe it helps to grasp the structure and/or framework of wine world consist of provenance, varietal, and (just a tiny tiny bit of) characteristic.
You probably do not need this if you have already been drinking wine and know what you want to drink based on occasions. But if you do not have any idea about it but want to try, it gives you the guideline for the guideline. As you can see, it is really simple as I choose wines that are readily available here in Korea (Yes, it is really just three whites you can buy anywhere; in fact, even Riesling is not that widely available. Sauvignon Blanc is much better but most white here is Chardonnay).
Wherever you start your journey, you can expand your route however you like; you can start from provenance, meaning drinking wines from specific country or region; or taking one varietal and comparing diverse characteristic around the world. While doing it, the most important thing is to remember the starting point and make conscious choice for every step of the journey, and someday you can find yourself have more closely knitted network of knowledge. Me? No, I do not have that one and still have long way to go.
One last word: even if I said you can start anywhere you like it, I always believe it is much easier to start from New World than Old World, as the latter’s PDO system always make it more complicated, hence difficult than it really is. Once you can grasp the relationship between varietal and characteristic of New World wine which in most cases made out of single varietals, you can understand Old World wine made by blending different varietals much easier.