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Ernest Valtri: On Wine


Collecting and selecting, pairing and sharing, researching and teaching, exploring and learning, critiquing and enjoying, and of course, writing about it … where does all the wine fun end?

For plain old fun, for me, nothing beats drinking a terrific wine with people who matter to me. In a way, it’s the culmination of all those things (and more) just mentioned. I suppose it’s a certain kind of approach to things in general. A little measure of child-like wonder I personally like to hang on to.

Collecting wine may have its roots in my days as a Cub Scout from a thousand years ago. There was a merit badge to be earned by collecting every U.S. coin minted the year you were born. I got my badge, and the collecting bug has never left. Let the fun begin!

In addition to all of wine’s happy fun stuff, even nasty stuff can lead to fun at times. When a cork breaks while being pulled from a bottle, it leads to special, clever ways specifically designed to deal with the problem. (There are several solutions.)

Stains! I’ve wine-stained everything over the years, from clothing and upholstery to fingers and teeth. All have distinct ways to be dealt with. I’ve broken plenty of glasses and dropped a bottle or two as well. Even cleaning up such a mess has, at times, been a comedic scramble. (Top priority is always shuffling two curious cats away.)

The wine world is inundated with rituals. There are right and wrong ways to open and handle a bottle. Pouring wine effectively requires a certain skill. You can even infer things from the way a person holds their wine glass, or if they literally stick their nose into the glass at some point. These seemingly mundane routines are simple things to observe and learning them is a rewarding pleasure. Even including those times when success is preceded by many missteps can be entertaining. (Learning how to spit wine while maintaining your cool and composure; now that yields lots of missteps along the way.)

Talking about wine, what makes it special, why you like one but not another, or what special experience you might associate with a certain wine, may be the most fun. That one probably falls under “sharing.”

Ernest Valtri of Buckingham is a sculptor, graphic designer, and a former member of the PLCB’s Wine Advisory Council. Contact Erno at