Well, if you really want to push your learning quickly, here's what I'd recommend: find a very good wine shop, and spend the ~$20 a bottle it will take to get yourself into some really impressive examples. Find a shop that has a good selection - ask if they have a decent selection of bottles from Kermit Lynch, Louis Dressner or Terry Theisse - if they don't, they are the equivalent of Bud/Miller/Coors pushers. Might not be easy in South Central Texas, but take a shot. I think Texas allows direct shipping, and if you want a great shop to get started, go to Chambers St Wines
in NYC. You can make your own choices, but if you call them at 212.227.1434 and ask them to put you a case together, you may get some of the greatest wines available at that price point. My recommendations for styles (and there a few whites in here):
Bordeaux Red or Loire Cab Franc
Burgundy Red and White
Cotes du Rhone or other Southern French
Sauternes or Quarts de Chaume
Some bottles may be less and some more, or they may make other recommendations on styles, but trust them - if you order from Chambers St, you may have the best store in the country
. That's six reds and six whites, but they'll pick you out winners if you want to lean more toward the reds - just let them know. Maybe you could lose the Champagne and try something else red from California or Italy. It's a perfect time to ship right now, too.
It's a great journey, and the variety of styles and the depth of the subject is both a challenge and a pure joy.