Learning About Wine When You’re Starting From Scratch

Unless you’re already knowledgable about wine (kudos to you), you’ve probably been in a restaurant or the wine aisle at your grocery store and just stared at your possibilities. The names, years, and locations on the bottles all confuse you and you end up selecting one because of one of three things:

  • You’ve had it before and know you like it.
  • It’s on sale and, you know, budgets.
  • The logo is cool.

Most of my wine discovery happens because of that third reason (good design does sell, after all), but most often I end up getting something that was “meh” in relation to what I really wanted to be tasting, or even just forgettable and insignificant. I wanted to know more about wine. All I knew was I preferred red and usually enjoyed French wines. But where do you start? It’s easy to be overwhelmed, but my husband and I decided to dig in with some friends who shared an interest in learning more. Here are some steps to getting started.

  • Be curious and not afraid to try things – At this point, you may not know what your palette likes besides the familiar wines you currently stock your dinner parties with. You may not like everything you try, but that’s the point right?
  • Include others – mostly because it’s more fun this way, but also so that you can talk about what you’re tasting and see how it compares to other people. We’ve started a “wine club” with friends. It’s a great way to try new wines on a budget and get together and hang out!

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  • Work in categories – try wines that are made with only one kind of grape to learn what each taste like, or pick a region of the world to try wines from. This helps narrow down a tasting selection and makes it easier to remember what you’ve tried
  • Do some research – a really great resource is the book Wine Folly (there’s also more info on their blog). The book gives great intros for how to taste wine and flavors of different kinds of grapes and regions. Plus, the couple that made it are also graphic designers, so it’s really easy to read and full of infographics. Another good resource that goes a little more in depth is The Wine Bible. Use this to further your knowledge on why wines from different regions have unique tastes.

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  • Take notes – this could mean keeping a notebook or taking photos of what you’ve tasted, maybe simply taking mental notes on what you’re tasting. Somehow log it in to your memory so that you can recognize wines you’ve had or remember which kinds of grapes or blends you seem to like the most.
  • Keep it up – you won’t be a pro overnight. Even Master Sommeliers study for years before passing their exams. New wines are constantly being made, so there’s always more to learn, which is part of the fun!

I’m still in the novice stage myself, but even after just a bit of trial and error and research, I noticed a difference in the way I can read a wine menu at a restaurant or even select wines from my local market and it means I have much better luck choosing ones I like! How have you taught yourself about selecting wine?

Lydia Jane

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One thought on “Learning About Wine When You’re Starting From Scratch

  1. Such an awesome post! I went to a wine tasting with a GF this past Friday and she’s been a member at this wine bar that we went to (as well as some others!) I feel like that may be a good way to better my wine knowledge… and your tips are really great ideas too!!

    Hope all is well!!!

    With Love & Style,
    ♥ Amber


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