I’ve gotten this question from a few people over time. They’ll taste the wine, swish it around and then ask me: “What should I be tasting?” The best part about this question is that the answer is comforting. You should be tasting what you taste.
Let’s put it this way. You’ve been tasting things your entire life. You already know how to do this. To start with, simply decide whether or not you like what you’ve just put in your mouth. If you don’t like it, that’s absolutely fine. Don’t drink it. Just because it’s wine doesn’t mean that it’s good, or that if you do not like it you are somehow unsophisticated.
I bet there’s something out there you do like.
I love gear. When I have a new hobby, my first thought is to go out and buy a bunch of toys and gear to get started. There’s always a startup cost, but with wine, the wine itself is going to be the expense. I will discuss in the future how to taste wine cheaply, and what wine accessories can in fact be helpful, but when getting started, it couldn’t be simpler.
Get a nice glass. I currently have a set of two Riedel crystal glasses in the Bordeaux style. It was about $40 for the two of them. It’s a beautiful set of glassware, and helps me to taste better than I thought it would. Having a proper glass helps boost my enjoyment of the process of tasting wine.
That’s it! You’ll be spending plenty of money on wine itself, so there’s really no need to break the bank on toys. It would be easy to go overboard with the various toys, but hold back for now and get a few nice bottles to taste.
One of my first memories from traveling the road to wine comfort was a misconception. I had a lot of words in my head, mostly varieties of grape. I knew that they were types of wine, but for some reason I had gotten the wrong idea about what they meant. Here’s an example: I thought Cabernet Sauvignon was a cheapo wine that no one wanted to drink. When I learned that it is actually one of the noblest grapes in the world, and plays first fiddle in some of the finest wines ever produced, my entire perspective shifted. As close as I can now reckon, I had tried it a few times (sometimes out of a jug) and remember that I had seen it on so many wine lists and bar chalkboards, I figured it just couldn’t be good.
And so I learned to forget what I thought I knew about wine. I figured that any preconceptions that did not come from a trusted source, or from the scientific method, were invalid. Suddenly, the subject was new again, and approachable. My old comment, “I can’t learn about wine”, did not come from a trusted source, and I certainly didn’t test it as a hypothesis.
When I started learning about wine, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. I knew it was something that not a lot of people feel comfortable with, and I wasn’t comfortable with it myself. I made a conscious decision to demystify it for myself, so I could stop worrying about not knowing anything about it.
I’m by no means an expert, but I now have the tools I need to learn about wine, and I feel comfortable making my way around a wine list and a wine store. Ultimately, that took around 2 years and a little formal wine education. Most people could stop there (or even without the formal education), but I do not intend to. I really enjoy tasting and sharing wine with friends and family, and it’s become a lifelong passion that I am looking forward to nurturing.
I intend this blog to behave as a guidepost to people who believe they can’t learn. My hope is to keep posts brief, and either share a tidbit about wine that I find useful when making decisions, or point to a resource that can be used to help learn. Happy tasting!