Before I considered myself to be a wine drinker, I incorrectly assumed that all wine drinkers were the same. I believed wine drinkers could easily be chosen out of a crowded room; that men all wore Hugo Boss sport coats and expensive loafers and women wore pantsuits with their pearl necklaces. Couples who collected wine chose their wines solely on reputation and price; taste didn't fit into their purchasing equation because it was irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. For wine drinkers, I believed it was purely based on one-upping their friends and neighbors.
Turns out, I was only partially correct. Drinking wine is fun, in a grown-up not-bumping-into-things kind of way. Most wine drinkers are sophisticated in their own way, they may not be wearing that Hugo Boss sport coat or their vintage pearl necklace, but they're still sophisticated people with high standards for their alcohol. There are of course exceptions to the rule: my friends and I are not sophisticated wine drinkers—we get "wine wasted" and say inappropriate things as we run barefoot through the vineyard. But we love our wine just as much as the classy folks who nitpick every detail of a wine.
As I've set out on my wine journey, I've come across people who fit the description above to a T. They discuss their wines in terms of finances and status and if you're lucky enough to be invited into their prized cellar, you are sure to find hundreds, if not thousands of bottles of wine arranged precisely; by region, by value, by varietal, by vintage. You'll usually notice that their common or affordable wines are arranged within reach, and are frequently ignored in conversation. (If you want to get them uncomfortable, ask them about that bottle of Gallo!) Some of these people live in gated communities in multi-million dollar homes with their Tesla's proudly parked in their driveway while others live just like the rest of us.
For these people, wine is their status symbol. To common folks, they just seem obsessive about wine. Hoarding bottles that they never have any intention of opening, only holding onto for bragging rights with the intention to sell when the market is right.
As a 22-year old, I was introduced to wine by someone who considered himself to be a wine collector. Whenever we went to dinner, he would order some fabulous library wine (which to me, tasted like burnt rubber) and would turn his nose up at the $12 glass of Riesling that I had ordered to go along with my salad. I didn't know what I was doing when I ordered wine, I was purely a vodka girl and if I was going to lower myself to drink wine, I was going to drink something sweet, that I could drink a lot of and wouldn't stain my teeth. (Priorities, yo!) There was no way that I would ever become a wine drinker, I wasn't snotty and I liked to have fun! Drinking wine didn't seem like very much fun, especially when you're focused on the fact you've just ordered a $450 bottle of Burgundy that is going to waste because you're with a table full of wine novices.
Not all wine drinkers are collectors. Some wine enthusiasts simply purchase wine with the intention of drinking it, they just also happen to have hundreds, perhaps thousands of bottles locked away in their cellars. The subtle (but approachable) difference is wine gatherers purchase what they enjoy, regardless of price, prestige, vintage, region or score from some wine-rating service. The resale of any given wine isn't an issue because the plan is to enjoy it, not hoard it.
As a wine gatherer I certainly have a handful of bottles which I paid several hundred dollars for that I would be upset should someone mistakenly open, but for the most part, I set out to purchase wines that are accessible and easy drinking. Sure I have a few wines that casual wine drinkers won't hesitate to spit out that I absolutely love but for the most part, I buy wines that are great for casual daytime drinking as well as the perfect accompaniment to a show stopping Christmas roast. Most importantly, I purchase wine because I enjoy drinking it.
I've yet to meet a wine collector who doesn't drink. In fact, they love wine just as much as the rest of us self-proclaimed wine-o's, they just go about purchasing their wine a little differently. I've never met a wine collector who purchased a bottle based on the design of the label, however.
If you're new to wine, try things that sound interesting to you. Ignore the price tag or the varietal, read the descriptions and consider what they have to offer and if you like it, buy it. Take it home, store it, and the next time you have company over for dinner, uncork it and enjoy it.