My new apartment in Salzburg has come together so well. My girlfriend and I have finally finished with the decorating and she is very happy with it. I just assembled the last piece of furniture, our couch. I've also managed to entirely replenish my wine refrigerator. We decided to empty it out before the move, since wine doesn't exactly travel well. (Well, that, and I wanted to buy some new wines anyway!) Mostly, we drank it ourselves although we gifted a few bottles to friends.
You probably thought I was only a beer drinker since I've gone to the trouble to set up my own homebrew operation. Actually, I've collected wine for a long time. When I was four years old, my parents moved our family to Portugal and our house outside Lisbon had it's own little vineyard. When it was time to harvest, I got to stomp the grapes, which was so much fun. So I knew about wine from a very young age. These days, my favorite wines to drink are Riesling, a white wine from Austria and southern Germany and red wines from a region in the south of France called Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I don't spend a lot of money on wine, maybe $20 to $50 a bottle. I'm more concerned with the taste rather than whether or not it has a fancy label or comes from a famous place. A $50 bottle can be just as good as a $500 bottle if you know what you're looking for.
My girlfriend's dad is a small merchant and travels around to wine tastings, mainly as a hobby. I've been going to tastings myself about once a month and even won a wine-tasting competition. There's a place up here that is a big wine retailer for restaurants and stuff and every few weeks they have tastings. At this one, they opened up 16 different bottles, vintages from 1977 up to 2005. Everyone tasted the wines blind and had to write down what grape they believed it was, the country it was from, the region, the year, and the winemaker. There was a scoring system that awarded points for correct answers. Correctly guessing the country was two points, the vintage was two points, and the year, grape type, and region were five points each. I got lucky in this instance because we ended up tasting some wines I was familiar with. One of them I hit exactly--the region, the grape, the vintage, everything. I took home a magnum bottle of champagne for winning.
In a way, wine tasting competitions are a lot like poker. You come in prepared, but sometimes it takes a lot of luck to win. At this competition, I got lucky because the wine I guessed was one of maybe five or ten wines I could identify exactly. It's like getting a good table draw on Day 1 of a tournament. You can either draw a group of wines that you knew very well or you can draw some you aren't familiar with at all. However, in the last competition I took part in before this one, I finished last! That time, I wasn't as familiar with the wines and it was more like an ugly table draw.
So now that I've conquered beer and wine, perhaps my next move should be a distillery. My mom actually got me a small one for Christmas that I've been playing around with. Once you get started making your own beverages, you really can't stop!
George Danzer is a member of Team PokerStars Pro.