Did you make any resolutions for 2015? Here’s a suggestion: Learn about wine.
You may be someone who stays in a certain comfort zone when it comes to wine. You know what you like to drink. You might venture occasionally into sometime a little different, but you generally stick to, say, bold red wines or rich, creamy whites.
Why learn more about wine? The whole proposition can seem daunting and complicated, like learning any new skill or a foreign language. But wine is like other aesthetic pleasures, such as music or art: When you gain a better understanding and appreciation for wine and all its subtleties, you can find even greater enjoyment in it.
Some people appear to actively resist learning about wine. In part, that’s probably because there’s a lot of reverse snobbery on the subject. A popular image of the wine connoisseur is of an uber-geek re galing (read: boring) others with frequent pronouncements. I, too, will look for any excuse to get away from such people.
But connoisseurship can be a source of great personal satisfaction. There’s no reason to be embarrassed by it.
So if you want to learn more, how should you start? The first thing to understand is that there’s a difference between drinking and tasting. When you’re drinking wine, you’re enjoying the moment and, presumably, what’s in your glass, but you may not be thinking about it all that much. Tasting presents an opportunity to consider a wine — not simply whether you like it, but also its components and how they come together to create an overall impression.
When you’re tasting, it’s essential to take notes. Not necessarily the florid prose that people like to make fun of (“damson plum preserves with a flutter of asphalt”), although if that helps you, fine. Taking notes forces you to focus on what’s in your glass — the appearance and aromas, as well as the flavors. Notes are also helpful if you want to refer back to a wine that you’ve enjoyed. It’s the rare wine that makes such an impression that I can remember it clearly without notes.
I should digress here and add that if you want to taste more than a few wines at a time, you need to learn how to spit. Spitting will not only help you avoid getting pulled over for drunken driving, it will help you keep a clear head as you try to concentrate on the wines.
Look for opportunities to compare wines of a similar type. That can be a pricey proposition if you’re assembling several bottles. But some restaurants and wine bars offer “flights” of several wines that have a common thread. Think albarino from Edna Valley and Spain. Consider forming a tasting group.
When everyone shares the cost, you can taste some terrific wines for a modest sum. This is important, because if you want to gain a true appreciation for wine, you need to taste the good stuff. Not every day, but an occasional splurge is important.