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Steve Flynn of September Wines & Spirits says not to be ashamed if you don't know much about wine

RESOLUTION: “I Will Learn More About Wine”

EXPERT: Steve Flynn, Owner of September Wines & Spirits

You've wandered aimlessly around too many wine stores trying to pretend your searching for the "Argentinian" section. The wine list is plopped in front of you and you just point to the menu hoping you've landed on somethign not too expensive--how do you pronounce that anyways? You're invited to a dinner party and are worried you've showed up with a bottle people will, well, spit out. Well, not anymore.

Steve Flynn, owner of September Wines & Spirits has been serving up the grapes at his shop in the Lower East side of New York for over six years. Focusing on primarily small production, family run estates with an emphasis on European wines, Steve's store is a go-to for wine aficionados and newbies in the neighborhood and beyond. He believes "wine is not simply a beverage" and studied at the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. With hands on experience, lots of wine tastings (some of which are offered regularly in-house at the shop) and an education behind him we asked him a few questions to help with the second resolution in our 12 Resolutions for 2012, "I Will Learn More About Wine."

Read our 12 Resolutions for 2012: I Will Learn More About Wine Q + A with Steve Flynn of September Wines & Spirits below.

What got you interested in wine? And how did you become an expert?

Wine is not simply a beverage. I look at it as a fascinating field that encompasses history, geography, agriculture, science, nature. The list goes on. My wife and I developed a passion for wine together and studied at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. That provided a great base but the deeper knowledge comes from constantly tasting wine, reading and just being around it.

How do we get better at ordering and buying wine?

Find a wine shop that you can trust. If they post scores on the bottles, move on. Scores are meaningless. Many wine critics assess the different wines. The store is posting the highest score. So, most critics may have given the wine an 82 but one critic gave it a 90 so that's the score you see. But even more importantly, your palate is more than likely quite different from the wine critic. So, just because Robert Parker likes something has no bearing on whether or not you will. Scoring wines is just stupid. Would you score the Mona Lisa? How many points would you give "Stairway to Heaven"? It speaks to some people and not to others. Wine is no different. So, back to finding a good wine shop. A good shop employs people that are knowledgeable and passionate about wine. Stores that post scores are generally using numbers to replace good salespeople. Good sales people should ask you what you've liked in the past. They should try to ascertain your tastes. Do you like full bodied or lighter more elegant wines. Oak or no oak? Etc etc.

Are there other people like us that look lost in your wine store often?

Of course.

What's the first bit of advice you give these lost souls?

Don't be ashamed that you don't know about wine. No other pursuit seems to have the same power to embarrass people. I know nothing about cars. I know nothing about theater, tea, aviation. So what. Not everyone can know everything and just because you don't know about wine doesn't mean you're not sophisticated. Most people don't know anything about wine, even the people who think they do. That's why I employ sommeliers and other people who have wine as their passion. We know about it. If you want to learn, we're happy to help you along that path. But if you don't have the time or inclination, so be it. Speak up. Don't be ashamed. Talk to us. We're here to help.

Any go-to reasonably priced wineries you would suggest?

I hesitate to answer this for the same reason I don't like scores for wines. Just because I like something means nothing, unless I know your tastes.

Are there regions you would suggest for reds?

I'm fascinated by how climate and soil produce markedly different wines in different parts of the world so I like to drink from all over. That said, I feel that the wines from the New World - California, South America, Australia and South Africa in particular, strive for a singular style - big, ripe round wines that appeal to a large number of people. Producers from these places (not all but many) tend to shape the wines in the winery to fit a style and that robs the wine of its original character that nature bestowed upon it and I find that incredibly boring. That's what Coca Cola is for. So, for that reason, I would suggest looking to Europe. And specifically to the producers that have been making wine for generations. And even more specifically to producers who put the family name on the label. Wines like "Layer Cake" or "Yellow Tail" are concerned with branding. Producers who put their name on their product are concerned about quality. The South of France still has very good values and they're making some excellent wines down there now after years of just producing plonk. Also the Loire Valley in France produces some of the most interesting and delicious reds for not a lot of money.

Regions for whites?

Muscadet from the Loire Valley in France is delicious. Don't confuse it with Moscato which can be quite sweet. Muscadet is bone dry and crisp and a little savory and most of them are around $15

And pinks a.k.a. Rosé?

My favorite rosés usually come from Provence. They're fresh, crisp and minerally with subtle perfume and subtle fruit. But if you like juicier rosé, Spain makes some excellent ones.

What are some good rules to follow when selecting wine?

Ask for guidance. If you want to buy a nice wine for your Christmas dinner and you know Barolo is a nice wine, you may spend $75 and not enjoy it. Why? Well, it may have needed a decanting or just been simply too young to drink. Or maybe Barolo is too big a wine to go with the food you've prepared.

What would you suggest we do if we want try a wine at a restaurant but can't pronounce the name of it?

Point. Again, don't be ashamed that you don't speak French or Italian. If the sommelier gives you attitude, it's his/her problem. Not yours.

Do you support the age old notion that whites are for fish and poultry and reds for red meat? Why or why not?

It's not quite that simple. You can drink a red with fish but it should be unoaked, very light in body and low in tannin. Otherwise, it will ruin the fish and the fish can make the wine taste metallic. I always drink salmon with reds - pinot noir is a great pairing. Heartier poultry dishes like coq au vin can certainly stand up to red wine but it shouldn't be too heavy. Loire reds or Rhone reds are usually great.

Anything else you think is important we know?

Invest in crystal wine glasses. It makes a world of difference in how the wine is delivered to your mouth. All wine tastes cheap out of cheap wine glasses. You need crystal for it's thin rim. And don't get the stemless. You need a stem to hold the wine. Don't hold your wine glass by the bowl - it warms the wine and leaves the glass looking a wreck with smudgy fingerprints.

Don't be afraid to swirl and smell your wine. It's not pretentious, it's part of the experience. It'd be like going to the beach or the mountains and not enjoying the smell of the air. Make the most of your wine experience--that means swirl and smell it, taste it and look at it. The color is beautiful. Enjoy that too.

Drink your reds with a slight chill - lighter reds at around 60F and fuller reds around 65F. Drink your whites cool, not cold. Crisp whites like Sauvignon Blanc around 45F. Fuller whites like Chardonnay do better around 50F. Drinking them too cold mutes the flavors.

And if you really like a wine, remember what it was. Take a picture of it with your phone. So many people come in our store and say that they bought a wine they really liked but can't remember the name. "It had a blue label, maybe". We want you to have great wine experiences. You have to take some responsibility.

Visit Steve at September Wines and Spirits 100 Stanton  St. New York, NY for more information.

Read Resolution #1: I Will Dress Myself Better here.

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2 Responses to “Resolution #2”

  1. […] here–Resolution #1: “I Will Dress Myself Better“, Resolution #2 “I Will Learn More About Wine,” and Resolution #3 “I Will Travel More“ […]

  2. […] our previous resolutions here–Resolution #1: “I Will Dress Myself Better,” Resolution #2 “I Will Learn More About Wine,” Resolution #3 “I Will Travel More,“ Resolution #4 “I Will Be More Comfortable Nudie,” […]

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