When I was in junior high Guess jeans were all the rage. They were expensive and my parents weren't all that keen on buying a twelve year old designer clothes to impress his friends. Nevertheless, all the cool kids at school had them and I wanted them - BADLY. That little triangle on the rear right-side pocket continued to call my name. Then one day while perusing the Macy's sale rack, I noticed a plethora of Guess jeans and shirts for fifty percent off. I almost fainted. I grabbed a handful of various pants and shirts, ran to tell my mom, and got final permission after making sure they fit. I was so pumped. I couldn't wait to go to school the next day in my new, head-to-toe Guess outfit.
There's a reason I still remember this day clearly. It was humiliating. I remember the looks on every person's face as we gathered in the courtyard before class - the snickering, the wide eyes, the scornful expressions. Just because I had on super trendy designer Guess clothing, didn't mean I looked good. There was a reason those clothes were half price. Instead of the acid-washed denim, I was sporting a tan colored fade. Instead of the blue and white striped T-shirt, I had a button-up green and orange pattern. I'm pretty sure I was the laughing stock of Somerset Middle School for the rest of the day. In my mind, I had just followed the rules for being cool. The cool kids wear Guess clothes, so by my logic, wearing Guess clothes would instantly make me cool too. I was so caught up in the math, it never crossed my mind that looking good and being yourself were part of the equation.
Label whoring is no less prominent today than it was in 1992. Plenty of women still fawn over the LV that's written all over their leather purse, but as Countess LuAnn will tell you, "Even Louis Vuitton makes mistakes." Buying designer clothes because they're expensive is like buying designer wine or whisky because it's expensive - just because it cost a lot of money, doesn't mean it's good. Good taste, on the other hand, never goes out of style. If you're looking for respect, you won't find it by following the rules. The only way to develop good taste when it comes to booze is to taste as many things as possible, not just the highly-rated ones. You can't know what's good unless you know what isn't good and you can't develop an opinion by simply following everyone else's. There are no rules to booze, despite what people say. Much like the junior high courtyard, there is no easy checklist for acceptance.
Following rules, however, is much easier than developing an understanding. Why do I need to learn more about wine? White with fish, red with steak. What more do you need to know? Aside from fashion, no other interest bombards people with strict rules for proper enjoyment than alcohol. You can't put ice in your Van Winkle, John! For God's sake, NOOOOOOO! Much like my childhood obsession with Guess jeans, the people with the least amount of understanding are usually the most obsessive about following the rules and, worst of all, enforcing them. Back then, I was the first person to point out who did and didn't wear Guess because I was the most insecure. By citing off what you should and shouldn't do when consuming your liquor, people make themselves feel confident by telling you what you did wrong.
The booze world is a large and ever-expanding one. There are so many varietals of grapes to learn, vintages to understand, and whiskies to comprehend, that it makes complete sense to look for guidance. However, if you find yourself following rules, rather than your own interests, then stop and think about why you're doing it. You're not suppose to drink white with fish, it just happens to taste good. You're not suppose to like anything. There are plenty of great whiskies that people love and I just don't get - and vice versa.
I love fancy booze, but I sometimes hate fancy booze events. Why? Because that's where rules get enforced. It's a grown-up version of the junior high playground, but instead of Guess jeans it's trophy bottles and wine pedantry.
Label hunting and rules are about pedantry. Drinking is about pleasure.