Educating yourself in wine appreciation can be an exhilarating gourmet experience. While many of us were not raised to drink wine daily with a meal, we decide to start drinking it in our adult years as we experience fine food and fine restaurants. Now, we realize that it adds a distinct flavor and character to meals as well as having good health benefits. So, how do you get started with wine appreciation, buying and collecting great vintages? This brief guide will provide you the basic tips you need.
Develop Your Palate
Most wine enthusiasts have a glass of wine with dinner each night, and you don’t need to make this an exercise that you must do. Your every-day experience of buying and tasting wine will be a joyful sharing with friends and loved ones! For the evening meal at home, your best start is buying wines suggested to you by the buyer at a wine store or even the buyer at the wine section of your grocery or Trader Joe’s. Also, begin to taste various wines when dining out by ordering by the glass.
Become the wine sleuth–or budding wine scholar–and each time you try a different type you like, make a note in a journal (perhaps with labels pasted in), or in one you digitally create on your PC or iPad. Or perhaps you simply quickly Tweet a friend with whom you share your wine enthusiasm. Soon your record of text messages, tweets or hand-written notes become your coursework. Review your notes for which ones you like and why. Soon you’ll find which varieties you enjoy, whether red, white, classic types or the numerous varietals.
No expert is going to be able to make you like a type of wine and we all have our favorites based on personal preferences and our unique set of taste buds! I have a love for sweets and like my coffee rich with cream, so I find that I like buttery Chardonnay and light Zinfandel. Perhaps you are a tea-drinker and steak-eater and have a preference for a hearty red wine with a bit of tannin or a rich-flavored Merlot.
Read and Learn
You will find that you want to read more and more about wine and the specific grapes from which each type comes. Then you will have a better idea of what you’re drinking. Find a good beginners’ book like “The World Atlas of Wine” and start to study the chemistry of wine-making and even begin to analyze it technically, if that is of interest to you.
Subscribe to wine connoisseurs’ newsletters, blogs, forums and print magazines, such as the Wine Spectator. As you progress, find a critic or two who’s opinions resonate with yours and pick these to follow. In fact, taste the same wines and compare your favorite critic’s palate to your own. Note any differences as you develop your own taste distinctions.
When you can, attend wine tastings and organize your own. There are two types of wine tastings. The first is easiest to do and is considered a “Vertical” tasting, since it focuses on a single vineyard with a sampling of their vintages. “Horizontal” wine tastings include a category or subject, such as German Rieslings, Napa Valley Chardonnays, or wines from the Loire Valley. Not that you have to fly to France, Germany or Napa, but for “Horizontal” tastings you need to arrange for the purchase and availability of the various selections.
There are definite proven health benefits of drinking wine and you needn’t concern yourself with red versus white, or one brand versus another. Just know that, so long as you are not drinking in excess or have a dependency relationship with the alcoholic component, then wine is good for you. It can lengthen your life as well as provide you with some great memories!
Enjoy! Keep in mind that wine is mainly for serving with food and that’s how it developed into a refined and complex beverage category. Drink it with a meal or serve it with cheese, crackers and condiments. Indulge yourself in wines that you like and suit your budget. Make your study in wine connoisseurship, whether amateur or professional, into an in-depth experience of awareness and shared experience.