Life flies past. I used to write articles titled things like: “Do X before you’re 30”, and then my thirtieth birthday comes and goes, and I realise that I’m still learning all the time, and all the things I imagined I would have mastered by now are still developing, still growing, still in flux. Perhaps that’s the way it should be - we shouldn’t put a time limit on experiences, we should focus on the present moment.
That being said, I feel you can put a time limit on setting goals regarding habits, and changes of attitude. The funny thing about habits is that they’re so easy to put off, to avoid doing… and then, invariably, once you start, you realise what a good idea they were in the first place, and how damn simple they turned out to be.
So, considering the fact it’s still a fair few years before I turn 40 - and thus become really old - here’s a quick list of wine habits we think it would be a great idea to set in place before you reach that particular milestone.
And because this is a wine blog, I can guarantee all of these particular habits are only going to add to your pleasure when it comes to enjoying a good, life-affirming, youth-bringing glass of vino.
Get to know what you like (and don’t apologise for it)
I think we are all somewhat guilty of this. We are not always completely honest with ourselves or other people when it comes to our opinions of wine. Maybe we have lied about our level of enjoyment when faced with a particularly complicated bottle of red, poured for us by an eager and enthusiastic friend.
Perhaps we haven’t quite got the hang of the acquired taste which is natural wine. Maybe we actually really hanker after a bottle of clean, simple white wine, when those around us are reaching for big, heavy bottles of red. Life is too short for pretending, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a personal preference.
So, next time you’re really enjoying a glass of wine (I try to make this happen at least once a day), stop for a moment, and have a think about why you like it so much. Is it simply down to the flavours and aromas? Is it a textural thing, based on richness, acidity or body?
Make a mental note of what it is that’s so appealing to you, and then look to expand that to other bottles from other regions. Finding your style, and then unashamedly exploring it, can only be a good thing… no matter if your friends disagree.
Seek out wine you think you won’t like
Now, on the flip side of the same coin, let’s consider for a moment what you don’t - or at least think you don’t - like. As you get older, and approach those big milestone years, you’ll notice that your tastes change considerably.
Remember when you first tried wine? Most of us have a little sip as a child, curious as to what it is that sends our parents into happy raptures. I did this, and I remember thinking that they must be out of their tiny minds to drink such filth, when the world was full of proper drinks like lemonade and hot chocolate. Tastes change and mature, and it’s well worth revisiting wines we might not have warmed to in the past, as well as deliberately seeking out those wines we suspect won’t be our cup of tea.
It took me ages to get into white wines. Like, an embarrassingly long time. I avoided them throughout my teenage years and early twenties, simply because I thought I looked a lot cooler drinking red wine, and that white wine was somehow less interesting and less worthy of my attention.
It wasn’t until I moved to Hungary for a few years, and my colleague pointed out how ridiculous I was being that I realised that actually, I might just prefer those (as I thought) unfashionable white bottles to the deep, dark and mysterious red wines I associated with.
Interestingly, this particular colleague was not only an aficionado in central European white wines, but was also a speaker at a lot of conferences I used to attend. The advice he always gave me before a conference began was this: that I should have a look at the conference programme, and first go to a talk on something which has absolutely no connection to my interests or job. The workshop at the very bottom of my list, he would say, is the one I’d learn the most from.
I think that’s pretty sound advice for wine tasting, too. We should be comfortable expanding our palates with wines we anticipate disliking, and also, getting to know what you don’t like is a great way of getting to know what you do like, and why you like it.
Know how to serve your wine properly
By this, I don’t mean getting into a panic about matching glassware to wine styles, etc. Although there can be something nice about the ceremony of having the right shaped glass for each type of wine, it’s something best left in professional tasting rooms and fancy restaurants - life’s far too short to worry about this in your own home.
Instead, I mean making sure that every bottle you buy and serve is brought out and tasted at its peak, at the optimum level of potential enjoyment. What’s the point in buying excellent wine, and exploring the world of possibility that wine tasting brings if you’re serving it badly and flattening the flavour, or not getting the full impact of the bottle?
The main mistakes people make in this regard are to do with temperatures. While this isn’t gospel, and there are plenty of variations out there, this is a good suggestion to stick by:
Most red wines need to be served a little below room temperature, usually 12 - 18 degrees C.
White wines should be a little colder still, but not fridge-cold. Take them out of the fridge at least twenty minutes before pouring, and get them to around 8 - 12 degrees in order not to kill off all the depth and flavour.
Sparkling wine and dessert wines can be a little colder, hence the classic ice bucket. Serve these at 5 -7 degrees to make the most of that crispness or sweetness.
On top of this, get into the habit of decanting your full-bodied red wines (I also like to decant heavier white wines and Champagne, too) - it really does make a difference to the amount of flavour and aroma you’ll encounter just to really give the wine a chance to open up and breathe. Plus, it looks really cool.
We’re quite spoilt for choice in Australia when it comes to wineries. However, wherever in the world you are, if you’re a wine lover, you can massively benefit from taking the time out to visit a winery, and get to know your favourite drink on a more intimate level.
Whether you go alone as a personal pilgrimage to a particular, favourite wine producer’s tasting room, or organise a road trip with your mates to pack the car full of great bottles, trips to wineries are the perfect opportunity to explore wines, and talk to other passionate fans.
Remember, each sip of wine you drink contains the juice of a couple of grapes, each of which are unique, and each of which took a year to grow and ripen - make sure you’re making the most of every drop.
Indeed, if there’s one habit you should pick up before you turn forty, it’s to savour those wines. Time may pass quickly, life may be speeding up, but drinking wine is a moment of pleasure. It’s the chance you have to slow down, to mindfully experience those flavours, textures and aromas, to connect with the earth and with an artform which stretches back tens of thousands of years. As such, try to make every glass count.
On that note, let's pin down 3 wine recommendations we think would satisfy your personal palate. Have a go at our wine palate quiz below and we'll figure out which three bottles we think will suit you best!