Just getting into wine? These are the things you must know…

Just getting into wine…? When you open this box, prepare to be submerged with a multitude of “experts” and wine zealots telling you what to buy, when and how to drink it and whether it’s good, bad or indifferent….whether you want to hear it or not!

Not unlike any other acquired “lifestyle” skill, wine appreciation is an art form with a quasi-scientific formula behind it.  You can be “good” at it ‘cause you haveto or ‘cause you wantto.  Depending on which side you’re on, the art form or the formula will rise to the surface.

My earliest childhood memories are filled with the pungent perfume of fermenting wine enveloping our home every fall.  This was the trigger that winter would soon be here but also that my dad was preparing to brew that year’s vintage of his “slightly better than last year” blend of Granache, Moscato and Alicante grapes to make vino.  After the fermentation came the pressing and then the bottling…either in gallons or in 7Up bottles…for consumption that year.   The only “aging” of wine we did was when my mother would accidentally forget some in a bottle and we would reluctantly use it to make vinegar.

Later, as a teenager, I didn’t have to hide to drink.  As a matter of fact, I would have to run and hide if I didn’t drink wine at the dinner table…because my parents would quickly conclude that there was something “not right” with me.

Now that doesn’t make me a wine expert and neither does my “honorary sommelier” diploma bestowed on me a few years ago mostly because of my close affiliation with some Niagara based institutions.  And although I also successfully completed all three levels of proficiency in our own “Wine Expert in a Box” program, I am NOT a wine expert.

The following is a “blend” of articles, research, book excerpts that I have assembled for our (collective) reading pleasure and leisure education.

What every new wine drinker and wine aficionado should know:

  • Drink what you like.  Remember that a multitude of “experts” out there will insist on making you love what they love…but that is usually what they are being paid to love.  All that matters is what you like, irrespective of price.
  • Taste lots of different wines.  You didn’t learn to drive a car by reading books and you learned to swing a golf club by spending time at the range, right?  I know, it’s a tough job but someone has to drink it.  After all, they say that beer is made by men but wine is made by God.
  • Think of wine as food.  Always best enjoyed at a table, with food, with pleasant company.  Have martinis, designer drinks and thingies with little umbrellas when you’re hanging out at a bar (not wine).
  • Wine is like people…it changes and it comes and goes in and out of our lives.  Like most people that we meet in a lifetime, our taste changes with time because it is associated with certain memories and circumstances.  Keep a good memory of each and move on.  Keep discovering…wine appreciation is all about the journey.
  • You don’t need to know all the answers.  Just don’t ask the really stupid questions.   Someone once asked me : Was apple juice added to this wine to give it that green apple aroma?    I couldn’t resist answering:  Of course.  Do you want to know what was added to give it that “barn yard” finish?
  • Break the rules (most of them).  Have red wine with fish, drink wine straight from the bottle, have desert wine instead of desert, chill your red wine before drinking it,  cook with Rose wine, but PLEASE….PLEASE do not EVER hold your wine glass in the palm of your hand!  IT IS NOT A FREAKEN SIPPY CUP!

A final word of caution to new wine lovers: as little as you think you know about wine, 99% of the world around you knows even less.   If someone tries to impress you with frivolous cacophony about wine, ask them if they know how to get the “barn yard” aroma in a wine bottle.


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