“Well, I know I like Malbec and Cabernet, but I’m no connoisseur.” This might be the most common response we hear when we ask people at a wine tasting what they normally like to drink. It’s a perfectly valid answer, but we think people oftentimes don’t give themselves enough credit. And it’s easy to see why: there are thousands of different brands, styles, and regions to choose from in the world of wine. With so much information out there, the average consumer is likely to feel like a novice at best.
Thankfully a little knowledge in the wine world can go a long way. So in the spirit of this month’s education & learning theme, we’re sharing five simple things you can do to learn more about wine (and no, there will not be a quiz at the end).
1. Try everything: Yes, we’re serious about this one. In fact, it might be the best thing you can do to learn more about wine (hooray)! The key here is keeping an open mind – sweet wine might not be your thing, but that shouldn’t keep you from at least trying a German Riesling. Sample red wine, white wine, sweet wine, dry wine, rosé, bubbles, port, and everything else there is to offer. Go to tasting events or host them with your friends at home, and make a resolution to at least try everything (it’s ok to spit, too). Chances are you’ll walk away with a few new favorites and an overall better idea of the types of wine you like and dislike.
2. Taste with a purpose: When you do have a chance to taste a variety of different wines, don’t forget to think about what you’re drinking. Take note of the aroma, the color, and how it feels in your mouth. See if you can pick out different fruits or other familiar flavors. Take notes – if you want. There are no right or wrong answers, but the simple act of being aware of each wine you taste will help you remember your preferences later on.
3. Ask questions: Have you ever stood in the aisle of a wine shop for far too long debating which of the hundreds of $15 reds you should bring to that dinner party? Yeah, we’ve been there too. But store employees (and servers at restaurants) are there to help. Plus they know more about their wine selection than any customer ever could, so don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation. Let this person know your price range, a general style, or the type of occasion you’re shopping for and he or she will help point you in the right direction. And most importantly – don't be afraid to ask how a wine is pronounced! Every time you ask, you gain useful knowledge that will impres friends next time you bust out the correctly-pronounced term.
4. Take a class: If you’re looking for some more in-depth wine knowledge, an introductory class might be right for you. Boston alone offers a variety of classes ranging from the basics (like “Wine 101: Wine Tasting for the Complete Novice” at Boston Wine School) to niche interests (like this Wines of Tuscany class at the BCAE) to advanced (like the Wine Studies Program at Boston University). No matter what your level of knowledge or the type of class you decide to take, the act of sitting in a classroom and talking about wine will help you learn more.
5. Be confident: The fact of the matter is, a lot of people simply don’t know how much they already know about wine. The vast population of people who are “not a connoisseur” feel as though it’s easier to talk themselves down rather than speak up. It’s time to stop being afraid. Ask questions. Start conversations. Try crazy new wine. Don’t be afraid of looking or sounding stupid – remember, most of the wine drinkers of the world are in the same boat as you. Don’t get hung up on what you don’t know (or think you don’t know). After all, what’s the point of drinking wine if you’re not having fun?