Let me start this off with a little good news/bad news. The bad news is, no how-to article will teach you how to be a wine pro. The good news is, the only way to talk about wine & sound like you have a clue is to:
1. DRINK MORE WINE.
It is 100% true that whenever I taste a new wine I learn something. It can be anything from a new combination of flavors that I love, to ‘Oh wow, this wine compliments what I’m eating so well.’, to ‘OMG, I definitely never want to drink this again.’
You can read books about wine, and flavor profiles of different wines. A simple Pinterest search will bring you an info graphic that tells you that the flavor profile of a particular Cabernet has red currant notes with some tobacco on the back, along with a leathery mouthfeel. I’m here to tell you that the light will not go on until one day you experience that leathery mouthfeel. The bottom line: it doesn’t take a lot of work. Just drink.
2. Listen to the guy at the store.
This tip will usually work if you’re buying your wine at a reputable place. In general, most serious wine drinkers will love to tell you about their favorites, recent finds, and what they would drink with certain meals. If you have a general idea of what you’re looking for (i.e. a wine to go with some steaks I’m grilling, a good wine to take on a picnic) they will generally steer you in the right direction. Example: one summer I walked into my local spot looking for a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (if you’re looking for a refreshing summer wine, this is a great choice). My spot had 6 of them; so I asked the guy which one he would recommend. Without hesitation, he recommended Kim Crawford. I told him if it was terrible, I would be back to give him a piece of my mind. He laughed & told me I wouldn’t be. He was right. It was excellent & Kim still holds a spot in my summer wine rotation.
Try different wines with different foods. It’s fun, and every once in awhile you will have a ‘there’s a party in my mouth’ moment. And it will be glorious. Many wineries and higher-end shops will offer hands-on events where they pair their wines with different foods. I once hosted one with aphrodisiacs that was outside the box, but a fun way to spend an evening.
4. Don’t follow the rules.
Are there “rules” for wine? Sure. But much like ‘don’t wear white pants after Labor Day’ you don’t have to follow them. Drink what you like. If you only like sweet white wine, then drink it with your steak if that’s what makes you happy. If you want to put a couple of ice cubes in your Chardonnay, ignore the side-eye and do it. Don’t like room temperature red wine? Chill that puppy in the fridge for a bit.
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