Yes indeed price is often a factor in enjoyment. Enjoying a £3 bottle of wine that drinks like a £10 bottle is great. The reverse is ... well the opposite! That said, I find little value in branded commercial wine at £7 or less. This wasn't always the case, but times move on. There are some good value cheapies around, but it's sometimes a question of finding the right region/producer. For me value is probably strongest in the £10-15 range, but then that's clouded if buying older wines.Coma Velha
Yep enjoyable indeed, though the 2002 was a bit of a let-down (poor vintage and a poorer wine)Storing Wine
This used to be a big problem for me (when living in a flat) and certainly was a significant restriction to my interest in wine (of which patient cellaring is a part, as well as on any evening having a choice of good wines immediately on hand).
- Store in cardboard boxes as you're doing - the cardboard insulates against temperature variation, vibration and also keeps light out. Not perfect, but better than many wine shops
- Buy a wine fridge. Not too expensive, there are some decent cheapies on the market, but still plenty of stuff that's overpriced. Worth considering and there are even kitchen worktop models, or ultra-slimline ones.
- Trusted friends / relatives. If someone else has a decent cellar and doesn't use it, then maybe they'd keep your wine stored for you.
- Commercial storage. Plenty around, but having one local makes best sense. Some wine merchants offer a competitive cellaring price for wines bought from them (e.g. the Wine Society). It's an option.
For me I stuck with a single wooden (6 bottle) case for quite a while, though by necessity this meant most wine was being bought for very short term drinking. I now have ~ 250 bottles in racking + boxes under the stairs and a decent size wine fridge. Purchase of an additional wine fridge is imminent.Tasting
No matter what anyone says, there is no perfect palate. Not yours, not mine, not Jancis, not Parker. Even Michael Broadbent, one of the best and most respected tasters of our time, is very modest about his own palate. It takes a while to develop confidence in your own palate, but even then it varies day by day, mood by mood. It varies with temperature, food, preseeding wines. The quiet drinking, alone or with ones partner, can be a good way to focus on likes/dislikes and to develop a palate vocabulary (something I'm immensely limited in).
On the flip-side though, it's really good to occasionally get along to one of the big winetastings (usually in London). There's an Italian one organised by Decanter magazine in May IIRC, so I really need to see if we can make it. I haven't been to one for 2-3 years, but do recall them as a great way to sample widely. Palate fatigue is a real issue at such tastings, so see if you can get a wine list from the organisers in advance. Then go through with a pencil and whittle the 700 or so wines down to about 40 that you really want to taste, plus another 40 that are also of interest. If you find a producer you like though, be prepared to put the list to one side and taste the range. Spit if you like, but I tend not to. Don't feel bad about having a sip or two and then binning the remainder in the spittoons. They are worthwhile events, but always worth thinking how you'll avoid the worst of the crowds. Also worth noting that there are more than a few 'trophy chasers' who seek just to taste the most expensive wines (which as a consequence can go quickly). That's not to say avoid these (far from it), but if there's something you really want to taste, then don't be afraid to slot it in early.
As for vertical tasting... I've done a small number and still claim no authority. It's interesting, but as with much of this hobby, still imprecise. Weather, comparitive age, condition of bottle, growing and winemaking regime/personalities all can make a mockery of easy comparisons. Horizontals ditto. It's good to do them, but as Toby Bailey on the UK wine forum said a few years ago, people often try to overdo the theme idea. Sometimes it's just good to sit down with a few bottles and some good friends and enjoy the wines (and the company).Classification
No doubt that for years the AC system was a godsend for French winemakers. Collective marketing giving economies of scale, but with products that were already well known (and I'd say it's a lot easier to remember Cotes du Rhone than the names of a few hunded wineries) and at least perceived as 'best in class'. Times changed though, and I guess more than a few got lazy (or at least lazier). Then the Aussies (and others) came along, with a warmer climate (avoiding the awfully tart, green wines that used to characterise cheap French wine), simpler labelling, English language naming and more freedom to adapt to the market. The most prestigious French wine regions to a degree can ride this sort of challenge, with consistent investment, established reputations and a strong established demand. Wine drinkers will come to them. It's interesting to see how the South of France has reacted in recent years and the challenge is on.
That doesn't sound like a strong support for the AOC system? Well I guess I'm not the best person to defend it, but I do firmly believe in the benefits of preserving traditional styles & skills, of winemakers and grapegrowers banding together to maintain a common style that you can buy with 'some' confidence that you know what you're getting. Above all else they can act as an anchor to new trends and developments. Sometimes this is bad (where old bad habits are enshrined in local rules). In other instances they provide resistance to the development of an 'international wine style', or one that certain critics laud, or that commercial organisations (e.g. supermarkets) demand. One grower alone may feel vulnerable and feel they have to adapt. A tight-knit association of producers may feel they have history, regional pride and their fellow producers to think about before the demands of a Tesco or Archan or Carrefour.
Taking it region by region is the only really practical way to do it. For me it was Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, plus a smattering of France, then Italy in a big way. Spain is coming along slowly, ditto USA. Germany is an occasional diversion as are a number of other countries. I reckon I know Aussie wines very well (at least in name recognition of wineries/regions etc), Italy, France and NZ next.Old world vs. new world
Yup, plenty of bigots around (or in the better cases, people whose palate just doesn't align to one or the other). It's a real joy to appreciate a wide range of wines. The diversity, whilst a right royal pain in the neck to start, over time becomes a great benefit, allowing a wide choice depending on mood, food, company or just personal whim. Wine with food
We do eat food with wine on the whole. Part routine, part balance to the alcohol, part lubrication and part in the hope the two flavours will work together. That being said, there will be times that the wine just doesn't go with the food. Easy. Eat the food & then drink the wine! In reality 'the brains of the operation' does this most of the time anyway and I may only have 4-5 sips/gulps whilst I'm eating a dish. Wine & food matching is generally over-stressed IMO, though in wine circles there does seem to be a good appreciation that it's imprecise, but with plenty of alternatives rather than the 'perfect match'.Where from here?
You may well find the lack of storage space a limiting factor, plus the demands of a young family. If anything I'd think of it as perhaps a slow stage of development, where wine is an interest as against a hobby (for me it is very much a hobby and the main hobby at that). When circumstances change, then maybe the interest become a hobby and you can become the obsessive geek that many of us are
That said, your writing on the subject is excellent and I really enjoy your posts. You have an open and enquiring mind and coupled with a considered writing style make for good reading. You've really added to this forum in the year you've been posting.