Though our family gave us something of a head start when it came to learning about wine, we faced some serious New School challenges when it came time to integrate our hobby with the constraints of newfound independence. Specifically, we had little cash, we were clueless as to how to serve and pair wines, we were unsure about how to match a wine with any occasion beyond an all-out rager, and we were baffled when it came to choosing wines for friends who might also be in the early stages of their wine knowledge.
It was with these criteria in mind that we chose the 25 wines you’ll find in this book:
*Value: It would be rare to find a New School drinker for whom this wasn’t a primary concern. Most of the wines you’ll find here are less than $20, with a few exceptions. More than simply being inexpensive, these wines had to over-deliver. We had to walk away feeling we’d gotten a great value.
*Drinkability: To use a sports term, these wines had to be fundamentally strong; solid on the nose, body and finish without overwhelming the senses. None of these wines are overly complex.
*Appropriate for summer: Truth be told, we tend to prefer bold wines that make you breathe a little bit of fire. But those vintages are more appropriate for the cooler days of late autumn. Summer and early fall are all about light-on-their-feet wines with a little finesse. The ones we chose are generally bright, clean, crisp and inviting. They also go well with the fare that’s usually served during the warmer months. (We’ll leave the punch-you-in-the-throat wines for our Holiday edition, which will come out in November.)
*Versatility: We wanted these wines to be companionable with situations New Schoolers would find themselves in: dinner parties at the apartment, engagement parties, first dates, wedding showers, dinners at the boss’s house, casual barbeques, serious barbeques …
*Availability: This category is evolving. Whereas a wine used to only be considered readily available if it could be found at the grocery or liquor store, this has all changed with the Internet, which has brought wines to the global consumer. We only considered wine that, if not available at your local store, could be shipped within 24 hours when purchased online.
*Made in California: Our job is to make wine, not taste it. Much of what we do get to try comes our way organically when colleagues come over to share, when we’re out for a meal, or when we go on our own wine-buying trips. Most if not all of this occurs in California, which to us is at the very least the American Mecca for grape growing. We felt it was ultimately best to focus on wines that have entered our day-to-day existence, but would be enjoyed by our peers worldwide.
*Soul: None of these wines are eye-level-in-the-grocery-store brands. There’s nothing wrong with those, but we prefer our wines to come with a little backstory. Just because a wine is inexpensive doesn’t mean that it can’t come with a sense of discovery. We wanted these wines to be memorable.