We have been captivated by the alluring nature of wine for centuries, and it continues to be a source of great passion for many people. I’m often asked, “How can I learn more about wine?” My standard answer is, “Taste more.” Seriously!
I just finished a presentation of Wine 101 for the executives of a large retail group and the experience only confirmed my serial response. Here was a group of men in the food business (some were trained chefs) who maybe used to taste wine more, but for one reason or another stopped tasting wine. (Please note that I say taste, NOT drink, very different things.) They all had great palates, but if you don’t exercise the palate or the engage your memory for certain smells and tastes, it goes by the wayside.
For all of you who are interested in flexing your palate and expanding your knowledge, here’s what I recommend:
1) Taste more. By comparing wines side by side, you will train your palate, learn the difference between old world vs. new world wines, varietals and even vintages.
a. At dinner, open two bottles of wine and compare the wines side by side. If you buy the Wine Preserva®, or another wine preservation device, your wine will not go to waste if you don’t finish those two bottles that night.
b. Start a wine group and taste blind. Make sure you get like-minded people to joing the group. This meaning…that they have adventurous palates, want to learn and are not afraid to make mistakes in front of others. (Read: Leave your over-oaked chard loving friends out).
c. When dining out, order at least two wines by the glass. Try the different wines with various foods and truly experiment and take mental notes of preference or what doesn’t work.
2) Read more. Here are some recommended books:
a. Wine Uncorked by Fiona Beckett - A simple approach and good book for people to get their feet wet on the subject. There are a lot of charts and visuals that will help the novice taster.
b. Windows on the World by Kevin Zraly - A standard book that many people have. It’s packed full of information for the beginner to the more advanced.
c. The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil - A great resource to have on hand. I like the way it’s organized, a must have for reference.
d. Get a subscription to Decanter magazine. I much prefer this over Wine Spectator.
3) Websites to check out.
a. Mine, of course!
b. Jancis Robinson, my favorite wine author… EVER! http://www.jancisrobinson.com
c. Able Grape: A great reference website. http://www.ablegrape.com
Don’t forget…I am just an email or tweet away if you have any questions. Most importantly, enjoy the wine. There is no prize at the end of your life for those who know the most. There is only the prize held for those who enjoy it along the way.
Angela Camacho, a certified sommelier and author of a best selling wine tool, The Wine Wheel®, shares her obsession with wine and food.