Many of us, including me, believe wine is intimidating because we don’t even know where to start. The wine menu at a restaurant is too big and the selection at a liquor store is way too big. I understand craft beer and craft cocktails; however, I haven’t done more with wine than pick a bottle off the shelf because the label looked cool.
I asked my friend Zach Ferguson to help us all learn more about wine since he is the Manager of Corkscrew Wine & Cheese. He has been studying and tasting wine for years. He is the first to admit you don’t have to be an expert unless wine is your profession. Zach told me, “You should never feel inadequate when your drinking. Wine is just alcohol.” He also had a great point about the fact that wine is about the experience around it; a wine shared with good friends in good times will be a favorite bottle.
He gave me 2 solid tips to get started: use your server or bartender as a resource and attend a local wine tasting 101. A server, bartender or wine store associate has the knowledge to give you recommendations based on other beverages you like or tastes you like. You should be able to find a beginners wine class to learn the basics. Again, you don’t have to become a professional.
We have all seen ‘wine people’ swirl and slurp their wine to taste it. Zach suggests that you swirl the wine while holding the base of the stem flat on the table. This allows oxygen to mix with the wine to open the aroma or ‘nose’. Then, hold it to your nose and breath in to smell the wine. Smell is an important part of any beverage experience. Take a smaller sip at first and let it slowly move along your tongue. Notice the differences as you learn various types of wine.
The are 2 ‘groups’ of wines: Old World and New World:
Old world wines are from European countries like France, Italy and more. They are labeled with the names of the regions the wine is from instead of the grapes that are used. These wines have more earthy and wintery tastes. A Burgundy wine is from that region in France and can be a Pinot Noir grapes.
New world wines are from other countries like the Americas, Argentina, New Zealand and more. They are generally labeled with the names of the grapes used. These wines have more floral and fruity tastes. A Pinot Noir wine can be from California.
Suggestion: Full bottles are a big commitment so find a local wine bar, grab a friend and taste wines by the glass. Let the staff explain what you are drinking. Learn what you like.
Tip: Don’t just pick a wine based on price. There can be very good wines that are undervalued as well as some selections that are overpriced.