Confessions of a Checklist Drinker

Charles Antin spent the better part of his 20s in the fine and rare wine department at Christie’s. But after nearly a decade mainlining some of the greatest wines of the 20th century, he’d realized just how much he’d been missing…

People in the wine business often talk about their “ah-ha” wine, a bottle that created such a strong reaction that they can recall every single rose-colored detail about the day they drank it. Sometimes it’s rare or expensive, a bottle of first-growth Bordeaux opened on their 21st birthday by Uncle Bob, the otolaryngologist. Other times, it’s something inexpensive, but of enough quality to make it distinctive from their jug wine days. When I started in the wine business, I didn’t have an ah-ha wine, but I wanted one.

I first got interested in wine during a sad, jobless and confused time in my early 20s. I spent hours watching Sex and the City on DVD while—like millions of young Charlottes before me—drinking wine. Each night I’d read from a few wine books I’d picked up. An hour later, Samantha was in the sack with some dude, Mr. Big was being non-committal, and I knew something about the history of Bordeaux, the classification system in Burgundy and I’d polished off a bottle of … something. It was never something I was reading about, because I couldn’t afford the bottles that make their way into wine books as “representative of their terroir.” I knew I was missing something, some sort of visceral emotional reaction to wine that I had read about. At the time, I thought that a higher proportion of ah-ha wines must be the fine and collectible wines of the auction world, so instead of starting in the business as many do—a job at the local wine store or a bad distribution beat—I decided to try and get a job at Christie’s in the hopes of fast tracking my goal of amassing a cache of ah-ha moments.