Why bother to learn about wine?
Don’t you deserve better than any old rubbish that comes with ‘I’ll have a glass of red/white …’ ?
Why did you bother learn how to use your favourite electronic gadget? Why learn how to use your favourite social media? Why learn how to cook? Because, learning how to do something, even passably well, saves time, gives pleasure and improves your quality of life. Wine is no different – it’s all about finding out what you like. Why have a glass of Sauvignon when, with a bit of tasting around, you actually find out that you prefer Riesling? We have spent time with plenty of people who say I don’t like sweet wines, or red wines or whites only to find that, with a bit of experimentation, there are quite a few that they do like!
If you want to learn about wine, how do you do it?
So how do you gain access to a whole bunch of wines without buying a bottle only to find that you hate it and have to drink it or, worse, throw it away? The best place, by far, is to find someone who wants to travel the road with you; wine is a convivial experience and two of you helps share the cost. Where can you find a range of wines to taste? Wine courses; wine merchants; wine shows; restaurants with tasting menus; wine clubs; tasting at home.
Tasting at home
We would start with this, wouldn’t we, as we have put together a number of tasting packs of half bottles of wine designed to compare and contrast different types and styles of wine (see here for more details) including ‘Taste your way ‘round the world’ which has 24 different wines. If you have a small group of tasters, the benefits of half bottles are obvious – not too much of any one wine. We recommend that you also have some simple food such as pates, cold meats and cheese to have with the wines so that you can see how the wines change when they accompany food.
Wine clubs, like people, have different characters. Some are pretentious and formal and, at the other extreme, some are too chaotic to be of use. We have started and run two wine clubs with members drawn from the local community – both lasted more than 10 years and the current one is 15 years old with predominately the same core of members, most of whom didn’t know much about wine at the beginning. See our notes here about how we have set-up these clubs for longevity.
Restaurants with tasting menus
Restaurants with tasting menus are a good and enjoyable source of different wines. Most menus come with 4 to 6 wines selected to match the food on show. The downside is that these menus are generally at the top end of the restaurant’s price range so it is perhaps something one does on special occasions.
There are an ever increasing number of wine shows for the general public. The Decanter magazine run them regularly and then there are the wine writers such as the Three Wine Men and the Wine Gang, and then towns such as Cheltenham or Oxford also have wine shows. There are usually a huge array of wines so it pays to be methodical. First, go round the room and taste the white wines, then the reds and finish with the sweet wines. We taste the sparkling wines to refresh jaded palates whenever that happens. The big thing here is to spit out the wines, other than those you think are especially to your taste, and drink lots of water.
Many of the more up-market wine merchants have wines for tasting. This can run the range from a couple of bottles opened for tasting to banks of wines dispensed by the glass and evening tastings; some are free but most you have to pay something for.
WSET is the recognised body for running professional wine courses but there are others who do a couple of hours for company and other events. And if you want to get into the details of the principles and practices of how grapes are grown and wine is made, the University of Adelaide run an on-line course – see here.
So there is really no excuse for you to accept any old rubbish that comes with ‘I’ll have a glass of ….’