When one first starts buying wine, particularly when building up a personal collection, one quickly learns that the two principal considerations - apart from price, of course - are names of desirable and favourite wines and vintage evaluations.
Listing one's favourite wines is easier, compiled from one's drinking experience. Vintage evaluations are learnt from browsing wine pages on the Internet, and ratings from drinking sessions and discussions with fellow wine lovers.
That is today. But 30 years ago, there was no Internet. And there were few reasonably experienced wine drinkers, let alone wine lovers, in one's community - Singapore.
There was only the Decanter magazine, thank goodness, and opportunely at the time in 1983, Robert Parker burst onto the scene with his Robert Parker Wine Advocate wine magazine.
The latter, in particular, with its 100-point scoring of wine quality, was a godsend and avidly devoured.
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Since then, one has got a little more knowledgeable, a little wiser and more critical about accepting printed evaluations and scoring as gospel truth.
One learns to reach out to wider sources instead of only one or two sources.
And you learn which source is the more neutral in terms of personal recommendations, and what the biases of individual sources are.
And if you read French - which one does not, sadly - there are French wine magazines and Internet sources to access.
Back to vintages. How does one - as critically as possible within one's own experience - evaluate the various assessments and scores?
One learns soon enough whose ratings and wine notes are the more knowledgeable and reliable, and which to read with a more critical evaluation.
One learns just as quickly too, that English wine writers tend to be a little more cautious and conservative than others, and that one can rely on one's own experience.
And also that loudly wine-press acclaimed vintages need to be read and assessed a little more critically.
And of course it is also normal (and natural) to focus one's attention on the widely acclaimed vintages and scores, in particular the 100-pointers.
But soon enough, one learns to apply a little more critical view of these - which are more neutral and more balanced, and which are biased by personal preferences.
One thing that one has learnt is to take the reviews and scores of the so-called "off" vintages with a good pinch of salt.
And the best way to learn is by drinking your favourite wines from these "off" vintages.
And buying them, especially en primeur when the opening prices are generally much more acceptable.
This article was first published on Feb 17 , 2017. Get The Business Times for more stories.