Whenever some of our wine loving friends invite a group of people together for dinner and the topic falls invariably and quickly to wine, the first thing the old hands of the group ask the newcomers is: What do you like to drink?
Aside from the genuine curiosity of one inquisitive wine lover to the other, it's hard to deny that there's always an underlying challenge in that statement—basically, "do you know what you are talking about?" The person who poses the question is throwing out half an assessment and half a challenge.
While the assessment aspect is socially useful to avoid embarassment, the challenge is purely to satisfy one's ego.
The challenge makes wine more of a game where people compare their knowledge, pressing here and there to find out if you are a wine connoisseur on their level or not. People want to find out what your favourite wineries are, what hole they can pigeon you into. Are you a boring Bordeaux and Burgundy baron, a Super-Tuscan romantic, a natural wine hipster, or a New World hedonist?
It's very well likely that you could be one of these things, or even all of them. Does it matter? Not really. Wine should always be about discovery, and even if someone has become accustomed to drinking only from one or two regions their whole life, it isn't too late to slowly introduce them to new things. All you have to do is look at this huge trend for Burgundy nowadays to realise that even older wine lovers get peer pressured into liking something they might not have previously wanted to try at all.
So usually when we talk about wine, we love to ask: What are you drinking now?
What old-school producer did you just discover, or what strange new varietal has just found its way to our shores, or what awesome new kid is doing what, where?
As the New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov keeps mentioning, there's never been as good a time to be a wine lover than now. Everyone is doing new things—even Château Margaux and Palmer are experimenting with or have gone biodynamic—so it doesn't make sense anymore to be stubborn or unadventurous in your choices.
The best winery for years may no longer be the top dog anymore; alternatively, it may be possible to get a higher quality wine from a different producer in your favourite region for far less.
In a way, it's the craft beer mentality: look for collaborations between two awesome breweries, try the latest release from this Danish or Swedish super star brewery as they travel the world, and retail wise, keep buying new beers each time you visit the shop—while keeping in mind some safe references for regular drinking.
In wine, identify the old masters and look for their apprentices and protégés. It's the secret to being a smart wine drinker, and will give you more satisfaction for your money in the long run.
Geeking out is about exploring, and the word itself is about claiming back the stigma behind being a curious drinker. While many beer and wine lovers do flirt dangerously with too much of a good thing, the process of discussing and learning more about interesting booze is undoubtedly an awesome past-time. Being a wine lover just gets a bad rap, since the price of many of your father's first-growths are laughably overpriced, making everyone assume wine is for the rich only.
As we know here, that's a lazy fallacy. Keep most of your drinking wines at $150-$500, buy 2-3 to experience as they age, and don't play favourites.
Except good Beaujolais. Always buy good Beaujolais.
P.S. We do realise that in our staff introductions that we list our favourite regions. But we are always open to new things and new producers!