When I told my friends I got a summer internship with a wine company, they couldn’t get over how simple and fun it seemed. Although it is a lot of fun, wine is far from simple. As a twenty-one year old it’s daunting to walk into a wine store and make a selection. More than anything, I’m overwhelmed with questions like, “Which wine should I choose?” “Is this the right wine for the dinner I’m going to?” “Will I like it?” “Will the people I’m buying it for enjoy it?” Up until this point, the extent of my wine knowledge consisted of red, white, and pink. For me, choosing the right bottle of wine is intimidating.
And it doesn’t stop there. One of the most nerve-racking things about wine is all of the ways to describe it. Personally, I’m not sure I fully understand the meaning of words like “cloying”, “flabby”, “baked”, “insipid” and “piquant”. I thought “baked” is something you do to a cake! I could never understand the need to swirl the wine so much, tipping it back and forth before vigorously smelling it. These motions were so far from my comfort zone because after making them I would have no idea what to do or say.
Basically, all I really knew about wine is that you don’t want to get the wrong wine and you don’t want to say the wrong thing. But how do you learn?
Eventually, I discovered that you need to find a place where you won’t be judged and you feel comfortable to make mistakes. For me, it wasn’t until an event we hosted at the Boston Wine School called Wine Myth Busters that I really began to feel comfortable. That evening, a small group gathered together to chat about wine and to personally explore the validity of common wine “rules”. Everyone had a chance to voice their opinions about the wines we tasted and the myths about them: Does the glass make a difference? Is expensive wine better? Red wine with cheese, white wine with fish? We all had a different level of knowledge about wine, but instead of showing off what we knew, we used whatever knowledge we had to help one another. We laughed together and didn’t correct one another. It made wine so much less threatening. Now I know why you are supposed to swirl a glass of wine, and I can describe the wine I taste with words that my friends and I understand.
My advice for anyone with little knowledge about wine is to not worry about what you don’t know, but look forward to what you can learn. There is always more to learn and new ways to view things, and since there are so many different things to learn about wine, you just have to find your own way to learn and enjoy it. In my opinion, a great way to learn about wine is in a small group where you feel comfortable and don’t feel as though you will be judged. Once you take away the fear of judgment for choosing the wrong wine or saying the wrong thing, it’s not very intimidating at all!