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Easy ways to learn more about wine

image from www.sxc.hu

Yes, she's drinking white wine, but why not try a red?

Wine drinkers are creatures of habit. We tend to drink the same wines and shop in the same places for those wines. Which, frankly, doesn't do much to expand our wine horizons.

This is an especial problem for beginning wine drinkers, whose lack of experience is compounded by the intimidation factor — wine can be a scary place for newcomers, who are overwhelmed with labels, names, terms, and the like.

Hence this post, part of my New Year's resolution to write more items for people just getting started with wine. And a big tip of the Wine Curmudgeon's fedora to Dave McIntyre, who has written about some of this and jarred me into action.

After the jump, four easy things anyone can do to boost their wine savvy:


• Drink more wine. Seriously. One of the things that people always laugh at when I talk about wine is the idea that they can learn more by drinking more. This, I'm convinced, has its roots in our post-Prohibition cultural outlook. Americans have been taught that liquor is different, and can't be approached like other consumer goods. So we reserve wine for special occasions or let people who are supposed to know more about it than we do tell us what to drink. What we should be doing is drinking more (responsibly, of course), deciding ourselves what we want to drink, and not really caring what others think of what we drink.

• Shop in a different store. It's amazing, as Dave notes, how this will change your wine-buying perspective. For one thing, there will almost certainly be wines that you haven't seen before. For another, a store employee could recommend something you've never thought about. This is very important for people who only buy wine in grocery stores, where there are a lot of wines but mostly from the same old places made by the same companies and tasting exactly the same.

• Write down the names of the wine you enjoy. And even those you don't. No one, including the so-called experts, remembers the name of every wine they drink. So we write it down (CellarTracker, the unofficial wine inventory software of the blog!). There is nothing wrong or snooty with this; it's common sense. You don't even need a computer or smart phone or iPad — pencil and paper work just as well. Record the name, price and what you thought about the wine (and, believe it or not, phrases like good and bad are perfectly acceptable). If you have that information, you can go into a store and ask an employee to recommend something similar to the wine you liked — or to steer you away from one you didn't.

Try a wine you don't like. You don't have to do it often. But every once in a while, if you don't like sweet wine or red wine or whatever, taste one. Yes, there's a good chance that you still won't like it. But, given that your palate will change over time as you gain more experience, there's also a chance you'll find a new appreciation for a wine you didn't like.

The photo is from luisrock62 of Argentina, via stock.xchng, using a Creative Commons license

  • chad

    I really like this post. I’ve only been drinking wine for about a year. I try to mix up the wine stores I go to for just the reasons you mentioned. I love going and asking the folks in the wine stores to recommend me something that isn’t Cab Sauv, Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, or Pinot Noir. I ask them to give me something that may not be the cheapest, but a decent priced wine that will give me a good idea what the wine type tastes like without turning me off. I found some nice Tempranillo’s and Sauv Blancs that way. One guy even got me hooked on a Greek Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini.
    The other thing about asking for something new, is it really strikes up interesting conversations with the wine shop owners/workers. I have found that they are truly passionate about wine and love talking about it. I have learned so much from these conversations that allows me to be a smarter wine buyer.
    The other item you mentioned that I found extremely helpful is keeping track of your wines. I found it a must to keep track of the wines I buy and drink. I just have a basic excel spreadsheet that has the wine’s information, what I paid for it, where I got it, and then when I drink it, I write about it.
    All of which leads to your first paragraph and I only wish I had more time to drink more wine but I am working on it :)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jeffsiegel Jeff Siegel

    Glad you found the post, Chad. That’s why I wrote it. And thanks for sharing your experience.

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