To outsiders, wine collectors are a strange group of people. We spend small fortunes on what is essentially expensive grape juice, but we love every moment of it. To us, wine is more than just a drink that makes us feel warm and fuzzy after we’ve had a few too many glasses. It’s a living thing, always changing and evolving. That’s what makes collecting wine so exciting: it’s practically a competitive sport, requiring countless hours of research, finely-honed intuition, and a natural palate for wine. How can you tell whether you’re an obsessive wine collector or still in the little leagues? Here are 20 ways to tell you’re serious about wine.
1. You show up to your friend’s house with your own wine glasses
Let’s face it, they have a couple of chipped, purple wine glasses that they inherited from their parents when they went off to college 20 years ago, and you’re not drinking your Gaja out of those. If they don’t have different glasses for oaked and unoaked Chardonnay, it’s your duty to initiate them into the mysteries of stemware.
2. Your house is always kept at 55 degrees – You care more about your wine’s comfort than other people’s…
They invented thick, cozy sweaters for a reason. You’re not wearing slippers and a smoking jacket around the house just because you think it makes you look like a debonair professor. Your house is cold, and as long as you have that bottle of Cheval Blanc in your cellar, it’s going to stay that way.
3. You know how to pronounce “Carbonnieux” better than the waiter at a French restaurant
You’re the friend that everyone takes to French restaurants because you can tell them how to say everything on the menu. You didn’t even need to take French in high school; your wine collection has taught you everything you need to know about the language.
4. You developed this weird habit of rating everything on a 100-point scale
If you ever say that someone is a 97+, they should take it as the highest form of flattery. It means they’re just about perfect, and will probably get better with age. It’s not your fault that Robert Parker’s scale is so easy to use!
5. You’re the one NOT drinking wine at weddings
You’re the guest standing near the shrimp cocktail, making a face into your wine glass. Unless two wine collectors are getting married, chances are good that you’re only sipping during toasts. When the hosts are rolling out gallons of wine to satiate dozens of thirsty guests, it’s not likely to reach your standards.
6. Your spouse has threatened you with divorce over the massive collection of wooden boxes in your stairwell
No matter how many times you protest that you can repurpose those crates gathering dust in the hallway, you still get flak for it. And in the end, you hate the idea of tearing apart a container that once gave you so much joy. If the box says “Chateau Angelus,” you’re not about to take a hammer to it. Your boxes are a badge of honor.
7. You drink so much wine that you need a computer to keep track of your habit
When you’re in the company of fellow collectors, you never feel ashamed to say you went through five bottles of wine the other day with two friends. You don’t need to clarify that you spit most of that wine into a bucket. When you buy, sell, and drink this much wine, you need a supercomputer to help you keep track of it all.
8. You only shop for wine at the grocery store when the mother-in-law comes to visit
When the in-laws come to visit, it’s tempting to shut yourself away in your cellar for the duration of the holidays, with only your bottles of Bordeaux for company. Since your spouse wouldn’t appreciate your complete disappearance, the next best option is to keep your bottles under lock-and-key until your in-laws leave. You spent $800 on that bottle, and you’re not about to share it over a dinner conversation about how you’ve failed as a human being in every way imaginable. That’s a conversation that calls for jug wine, at best.
9. Your favorite child? The one that was born in the best vintage
Wine people are like dog people; instead of “fur babies,” they have “bottle babies.” They spoil their “kids” with all of the finest, mostly unnecessary amenities, and treat them like part of the family. You’d like to say that you don’t play favorites, but it’s obvious that you love your 2005 Burgundies more than your 2011 Burgundies.
10. You have a corkscrew in your car, golf bag, and stroller
Like a superhero of wine, you never know when your powers of taste will be needed. You’re the person who has an entire kitchen drawer dedicated to corkscrews, and two more on your keychain. Whenever you go to the airport, you have to give yourself a pat-down to make sure that you don’t accidentally carry them through a security checkpoint.
11. How did the blind date go last week? It was great! Oh, I didn’t like my date at all, but the Somm and I got to talking…
Your past romantic partners have learned never to take you to a wine bar on the first few dates. It takes every bit of willpower you have to avoid a long, in-depth conversation with the sommelier on staff. Your date could be the most interesting human being in the world, and you would still find a way to chat about wine with the staff for most of the evening.
12. When you say a wine tastes like forest floor and pencil shavings, you mean it as a compliment
When you tell a friend about a wine you love, it’ll sound like you’re drinking foul sludge. You’ve had people wonder if you spent a weekend licking trees and putting random objects in your mouth like a curious baby. It’s not that wine lovers have actually tasted the things that they say are in a wine’s profile. At least, with descriptions like “cat urine,” we hope not.
13. You call this a wine list? You don’t even have a meteorite-aged biodynamic Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon section!
Humans have been making wine for 9,000 years. If you want to get serious about wine, you have to be specific and think outside the box. You’re not ashamed to admit that you’ve turned your nose up at wine lists that have the same 30 wines listed as everyone else. Diversity is the spice of life, and you demand South African orange wines!
14. A friend asked you how your kids were doing and you started telling them about your DRC
When you say, “My little angel got a perfect score,” you aren’t talking about your son’s math test. You’re the parent who has your children’s report cards taped to the fridge alongside Allen Meadow’s review of your latest DRC vintage. You can’t help that you’re proud of their accomplishments!
15. Your friends thought you were talking about Biblical kings, but you were actually talking about all the large bottles in your wine collection
Your friends all assumed you’re a big ancient history buff. It wasn’t until they saw your wine cellar that they realized you own wine bottles bigger than your own torso. And that when you use the word Jeroboam, it has nothing to do with the kings of Israel.
16. You named your dogs after grapes. You almost did the same with your kids until your spouse stopped you
Last weekend, you were the only one in the dog park yelling “Trebbiano” at your cocker spaniel. You almost got away with naming your child “Cava,” but your spouse caught on to that pretty quickly. You settled on “Alexander,” which means you still won.
17. You don’t care that this bottle cost you $500.00; you’re not paying $30.00 for corkage!
If there’s one thing serious collectors and casual drinkers can agree on, it’s that corkage fees are a racket. You know how to open a bottle of wine yourself, and you don’t need the maitre’d to give you a taste of your own wine before filling your guests’ glasses at the table. Five-hundred dollars on that Scarecrow Cab was worth it, but that doesn’t mean you’re giving money away.
18. You side-eye anyone who stores a nice German Riesling in the fridge alongside a gallon of milk
You’ve likely given your friends your PSA about white wine in the fridge. You visibly cringe when you see perfectly good bottles of Riesling or Chardonnay tortured in this way. It might seem like an overreaction, but it makes even the most wonderful vintages taste like frigid, bitter alcohol. It should be ice baths or nothing at all!
19. You believe wine should be labeled as a life-saving medicine so you can keep your finest bottles with you at all times (in an insulated wheeled cooler, of course)
People can get their pets registered as therapy animals so that they can sit on their laps during plane rides. You want the same opportunity for your best vintages. Having your DRC with you makes you feel calm and at-ease with the world. Plus, the thought of your bottles rattling around in the belly of the plane terrifies you to no end.
20. Your friends are afraid you’ll judge them for drinking Two Buck Chuck (and they’d be right)
Any wine a person truly enjoys is a good wine, but that doesn’t mean you’ll keep your opinions about wine to yourself. The great thing about wine is that it’s subjective; your friend gets to complain that fine wine tastes like gritty, bitter grapes, while you get to declare that cheap wine tastes like sugar water for grown-ups. It’s only fair.