In May of 2001, I was 19 years old. I had worked three jobs for 3 years while studying full-time, so that I could live my dream and travel in Europe. I already knew French and I took Beginners Spanish and Italian, so I could at least get by. When I finished my last exam, I was off for my dream trip to Europe. While the trip was amazing and as a history student I was in heaven, I look back – now that I’m getting into wine – and wonder if I missed out on some of the great wine areas of the world.
Traveling Through European Wine Country at 19 Years Old
As a student of history and languages, I knew the importance of wine in each country, but I did not know anything about varietals and vintages, nor did I know what makes a wine good or bad. So this leads me to an important question… now that I’m a new wine lover, did I miss out on a great wine opportunity? Is knowing that Gamay is the varietal of Beaujolais or Xinomavro a varietal of Greece very important to the wine experience? Or is it enough to simply enjoy a wine because it tastes good to you?
Yes, I probably missed out on some really nice wines not knowing what to ask for, but at the same time it definitely didn’t stop me from savouring the wines I had. I enjoyed plenty of wonderful wine experiences which made my trip unforgettable.
Wine Tasting Experiences Through Europe
A wine and cheese dinner in Paris (picture above), a wine tasting and a wine picnic at Domaine de Cruix in the Beaujolais, learning how to drink sangria the traditional way in Barcelona (see picture below), a wine and pasta dinner in Monte-Carlo, Monaco (I was too young to get in the casino where the rest of my friends were headed and being good backpacking friends they went in without me. Truth is, I couldn’t have afforded to gamble anyway), wine picnics in Venice, Florence and Rome, a wine and toga party in Corfu, Greece and finally a lovely wine dinner in the Plaka in Athens.
In Europe, Wine is Cheaper than Soda
I learned early on into the trip that wine was cheaper than water and cheaper than soda, so being on a budget and vegetarian I’d often go into the local market and be like “Give me a really great local wine, your best local cheese and some really fresh bread, I have XXX amount of money.” The clerk would ask “Well, what do you like?” and I’d say “Whatever you like best or people in this area like the best.” They were usually so excited to show a tourist their local fanfare especially one who was speaking their language, I’m pretty sure I got some decent stuff.
It’s too bad JustWine didn’t exist back then — I could have recorded all the wines I tasted!
My picnics ended up becoming very popular and slowly people ended up joining me instead of eating every meal in a restaurant (although I think my language capabilities had a lot to do with this as well, eating and drinking is less enjoyable if you feel like you’re being ripped off because you’re a tourist). So now, 15 years later, as a wine lover, looking back would I have done it differently? Truth is probably not. Maybe I would have an answer now to what I like because I actually know or I’d ask for a local varietal that I think I’d like to try, but I still enjoy letting locals pick out what I eat and drink in their hometowns, especially if it’s someone in the industry.
Lesson Learned: Wine Doesn’t Belong Under The Bus
My one regret…letting the tour guide put my beautiful wines under the bus to be destroyed by the heat of the engine. That I would definitely not do again. Maybe it’s time to plan a wine tasting trip across the Atlantic?