Balthassar is an alternate spelling of Balthazar, which refers to a huge bottle of wine that holds the equivalent of 16 regular sized bottles. It is also the name of one of the biblical three wise men. I have no special affinity to large format bottles, I just liked the name, and the connection to wisdom kind of fits too.

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Who am I, what do I have to say, and why should you care? My name is Bill, essentially this is going to be a forum for my opinion and perspective on all things wine-related, and, you shouldn’t, unless you do. Allow me to expand a little on each of those.

First of all I don’t for a minute profess to be an expert or an authority by any stretch of the imagination. I enjoy wine, and I recently decided that I’m passionate enough about it that I want to share my opinions with the world, or anyone who cares. On to my humble background… I’m very young, let’s say I have not legally been drinking wine for very long. I recently graduated from Boston College, and my long term plan is to go to medical school and become a cardiologist [insert resveratrol joke here]. Somewhere along my collegiate adventure I realized I needed to make some money, and, coming from a family where my parents owned a restaurant and catering business, I naturally gravitated towards the food business. The summer after my sophomore year, I began working in fine dining at a particular restaurant in Boston (which I won’t name at the moment, nor the one that I currently bartend at, but most likely will in future posts as they become relevant). Naturally, wine was inevitably part of fine dining, and at the time I knew nothing about it. When I say nothing I mean I couldn’t tell you the difference between Cabernet and Merlot, what color Reisling was, or what the hell Sauvignon Blanc was. So, I headed home for a long weekend and consulted the best wine authority I could think of, my Dad. He went to the liquor store and bought a couple of bottles, we had an intense crash course, and I returned to Boston knowing that Pinot Noir (as if the NOIR doesn’t give it away), was red. After establishing the basal wine knowledge necessary to work in fine dining, I started learning that the more I knew about wine, the more expensive wines I could sell, which translated into higher check averages and more cash in my pocket. Cool. So I started to learn what I could. Eventually I started to enjoy learning, and drinking for its own sake, and then I was hooked.

Fast forward three and a half years. I now know slightly more than the colors of the 10 most popular grape varietals. But the great Socratic maxim that the true indicator of knowledge and wisdom is realizing how much you don’t know perhaps applies more to wine than anything else. No one can possibly know everything. That’s part of the fun, realizing the vast world that’s out there. Sure, you can be a Master of Wine, a Master Sommelier, and know a lot. I’ll be the first to admit that I do not. But a lot about wine is extremely subjective, what you and I smell and taste, and therefore like or dislike may be completely different. Sure, there are some absolutes – tannins are real chemical compounds, residual sugar can be quantified, the vanilla flavor associated with new oak actually comes from a compound called vanillin. But the aromas and flavors that one picks out in a particular wine, and the conclusions one draws about a particular varietal, style, terroir, vintage, or pairing, are largely subjective. So disagree with me, please.

Let me emphasize that last statement. I’m ultimately doing this for myself. If anyone learns anything from anything I put up here, that’s awesome, and I really hope it is the case. If not, I won’t lose any sleep over it. In fact, I’d rather someone read something I post, disagree with it, and call me out on how much of an idiot I am, so that I learn from it. These are merely my observations and reflections on my personal journey to learn everything I can about wine.