American Victoria Daskal, who wrote for us a couple of years ago when she was doing the OIV masters' course and who has since married a Brit and settled in to the UK wine trade, offers the following suggestions. We all offer you our very best wishes for 2011 and for a great time this weekend.
The New Year is a great opportunity for self-reflection; to examine the year just gone, forgive your mistakes and pat yourself on the back for any personal triumphs. Aside from the obligatory resolution to diet and call your family more, there are a few wine resolutions we could all make to enhance our wine appreciation in the upcoming year 2011.
Don't stop learning
Whether it's taking a wine course or doing some home study with a few books, you can always find something new in the wine world to learn about. Resolve to read one of the many wine publications out there, from historical accounts to memoirs to wine region guides. No idea where to start? Browse through the recent 2010 wine book reviews published here.
A month-long experiment
Try this experiment at home. It will kill several birds with one stone, get you out of your wine-drinking rut, push you out of your comfort zone, and of course lead you to expand your wine knowledge. Pick one country at the start of the month and resolve to drink exclusively from its regions for the next 30 days. Be fair and avoid any countries that you typically drink already. After a week or two you will run out of the typical go-to grapes and regions and will have to seek out some of the country's more obscure wines. You are bound to end the month with a deeper understanding (and, I hope, appreciation) of a new wine country.
In conjunction with learning, reading, and drinking from new wine regions, keeping a written record of your vinous pursuits and discoveries is the surest way to have all this new-found knowledge stay with you, even when the hangover passes. A wine diary can hold your thoughts on the wine books you've read, wine and food matching successes (and failures), and of course your day-to-day notes on what you've been drinking and enjoying throughout the year.
Travel to your favourite wine region
As the wine world expands (see The expanding world of wine), many of us don't have to travel very far to visit a vineyard these days. Even a busy Londoner can hop on a train to Surrey, Sussex or Kent to visit the vineyards that make award-winning English sparkling wines. New Yorkers can easily reach the hard-working winemakers of Long Island or the Hudson River region. Those on the west coast of the North America, like most of Australia's city dwellers, are spoilt for choice. Whatever the country and region, seek out the addresses of your favourite producers and check whether they are open to visits. If you are in a group, you can get a full tour of the winemaking facilities and vineyards which will make you appreciate the effort and process that goes into making these wines. The brave and adventurous could perhaps participate in a grape harvest this year by e-mailing the producer directly.
Invest in your wine drinking
While there is nothing wrong with purchasing wine for specific occasions as and when they come up, or popping out for a bottle of Chianti to go with your Monday night spaghetti bolognese, the truth is that much of the wine available to purchase from shops is not necessarily prime for drinking. (This is particularly true in the UK.) The wine producer releases the current vintage and retailers stock it, then try to sell out in time to make space on their shelves for the next vintage. Meanwhile the wine in question may be far from ready. Whether from a tried and tested region, a newly discovered wine from your month of drinking your way round a single country, or straight from the cellar of a winery visit, pick a wine you'd like to lay down for a while. You can revisit it each year and note down how it develops, or promise to keep your hands off until it's truly meant to mature and bask in your cunning and planning that has allowed you to enjoy a lovely wine in its primce.
I hope very much to be able to stick to some of these resolutions during 2011 and to discover some hidden gems along the way. Feel free to add your wine resolutions for this year.