Are you stuck in a wine rut? Still drinking your go-to wine from last year? Or worse, from the last decade?
In today’s pressurized work and social environment, thinking outside the box may not seem all it’s touted to be. There’s a certain comfort in reaching for your favorite wine, knowing that it will generally meet your expectations every time.
Worse, are you intimidated each time you have to make a decision on what wine to drink? Do you think it takes some innate DNA gene to truly appreciate wine?
If you are nodding your head right now, then it’s time to venture into today’s plethora of excellent wines. Today, there are more well-made wines available than ever before, at prices that meet everyone’s price point. And there is a simple path to take.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to acquire a “wine-sense” is to simply buy a case of mixed wines, take them home and start drinking. It’s fun and you’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll hone your preferences and gain an understanding of the basics of wine. Here are three easy steps to follow:
First, visit your go-to local wine shop. Purchase a case of six white and six red wines from around the world. Yes, you may prefer red or white, but notwithstanding any allergic reaction to a particular grape, you may find your palate favors a wine your psyche doesn’t. Remember those steamed Brussel sprouts you avoided in your youth? Remember how your opinion changed when as an adult you first tasted Brussel sprouts roasted with garlic in extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar?
Graeme Goldstein, the wine guru at Art of Wine on Bedford Road in Pleasantville, has a customer-friendly approach. He tastes a significant number of the wines he sells.
“I think it’s important to be able to describe a wine from first-hand experience,” Goldstein said.
Be sure to set a suitable price range for your budget. I suggest an average price-point of $15 per bottle and a range of $8 to $20.
Try wines from grapes with which you have familiarity, but break away from the region of origin you’ve been consuming. Like Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand? Why not South Africa, Napa Valley, Chile or Bordeaux and the Loire Valley in France?
Try wines from grapes you may never have heard of. Like big, bold Cabernet Sauvignons? Consider experimenting with Tannat, Touriga Nacional and Barbera. The possibilities proliferate on wine shop shelves.
The fun begins in the second step. Each time the opportunity arises at dinnertime, open one of the bottles and pair it with your meal. This may seem daunting at first, but fear not. Certain guidelines will help you through the maze. Try the opened bottle without food. Do you detect certain aromas of flowers, berries or fruit? Do the aromas and taste overpower your individual palate? Conversely, are they too bland?
Next, and most important, try this same bottle with the meal at hand. You will notice a perceptible change in your opinion of the wine.
The third step: Jot down the particulars of the wine you just tasted. Record country, vintage, grape variety, your food pairing and what you liked and didn’t like about it. Simple notes are the best.
Once you’ve exhausted your case of wine, review your notes. Return to your wine merchant and have him or her select another case of wine that focuses on your newly-developed wine palette and repeat the three steps.
As you continue this refining process, you’ll feel more comfortable each time you walk into a wine shop or are presented with a restaurant wine list.
Be gone intimidation! Welcome self-confidence!
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.