We hear this all the time: “I love drinking wine, but I know nothing about it,” typically followed by “so I end up just picking the bottle with the coolest looking label.” And then “I have no idea if it’s actually good or worth what I paid for it,” tops it off despairingly. There’s a prevailing perception of the world of wine which creates this too often occurring experience: with so much information to digest, countless grape varieties, and a seemingly impenetrable fortress of jargon, only snobs and Ph.Ds can actually appreciate and understand wine while the rest of us are forced to “wing it” and hope that whatever we drink tastes good.
Let’s kick wine off of its pedestal for a moment. Wine, plain and simple, is meant to be shared among friends, enjoyed with food, and add pleasure to your life. We’re here to tell you that the journey to drinking and buying good wine isn’t always completed by following a path from “beginner” to “expert.” On the contrary, filtering out a lot of the noise and focusing on a few key ideas will more likely lead to the delicious experiences with wine you’re searching for. In that light, here are a few simple tips to make sure you're cracking into good wine this coming year -- no experience required.
Figure Out What You Like… and Drink More
Knowing what you like, in addition to what you don’t like, is the first major step in getting the most out of your wine drinking experiences. Best way to do so? Believe it or not, by drinking more wine-- it’s that simple! Figuring out why you gravitate towards certain styles (Crisp and high acid white? Rich and full-bodied red?) is key and often comes from just venturing out, specifically into new grape varieties, regions, and styles. You don’t have to know how to taste like an expert (or blind taste for that matter) simply tasting more, and more variety, will help you lock in on a few characteristics you enjoy in a wine -- and finding similar bottles will become a whole lot easier.
Don’t be Afraid to Talk About it
It’s fair to say that possibly no other basic human activity has had such an extensive (and extensively misunderstood) vocabulary attached to it than wine tasting. What is a “linear” wine, anyway? Here’s the truth: you don’t need to speak fluently in this vernacular to have a productive conversation about wine with someone or to pick up a great tip on a good bottle to try. Talking about wine should be fun and interesting -- just as drinking it should -- so if you’re leaning on advice from someone who makes you feel like you don’t know enough to enjoy the wine in front of you then, my friend, it’s time to find some new advice.
Get Curious About What’s In Your Glass
There’s a fine line between studying wine and just paying attention while you drink it. Set aside any intimidation, and start with the basics. Try to remember grapes, regions, and best of all, producers, that you’ve come to enjoy. Ask questions, take pictures of bottles you like -- and next time when one of those people you lean on for advice asks what you’ve been enjoying lately, these answers will go a long way.
Digging into how your wine was made (Is the fruit organic? Were there any chemicals/additives used in the process? Who are the people producing the bottle?) is the next step to becoming a much more informed consumer, and therefore, a way savvier wine drinker. With a seemingly infinite list of bottles on the market, getting curious about what goes into the one you’re buying not only helps you filter out some of the not-so-good wine out there -- it also means you don’t have to take gambles based purely on what the label looks like -- ultimately getting you a whole lot closer to finding the wine for you.
Get Your Friends Involved
Wine is best enjoyed among friends, so hop on a Zoom call with some of your buddies and start popping corks. Even better: ask each of them to bring a wine from a different part of the world. Getting a group of people involved brings a variety of tastes and opinions to the table. Nothing helps more to clarify what you like in a wine than bouncing your impression of it off of others. Here’s to hoping that this year we’ll get back to gathering around tables, campfires, and coffee tables -- and not our computers -- with good wine in hand, and our pinkies down.