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3 Keys to Becoming a Wine Connoisseur

You may think becoming a wine connoisseur lies outside your grasp. Perhaps you think it requires riches, travel or some esoteric knowledge. In reality, it requires patience, reading, proper tasting and begins with a $10 to $20 investment in a single bottle of wine.

Your journey to becoming a wine connoisseur requires three key steps:

  • Learn the wines.
  • Learn what makes a quality vintage.
  • Learn which wine to pair with food.

After you complete these steps, you can consider yourself a wine connoisseur.

1- Learn the Wines

Your study begins at the local library. Aside from the gas to travel there or bus fare, this step is free. Public library cards remain free and provide access to books, books on tape, movies and computers with Internet access. You’ll check out and read a few books on wine and wine making. The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia by Tom Stevenson provides a starting point. Also, read any wine related magazines they carry.

Begin with learning the basics like the differences between white and red wines. Learn the names of key grapes and wine regions. You should know things like Zinfadel grapes and that Napa Valley is a wine region, plus terms like Kabinett, Prädikat and Trockenbeerenauslese.

2- Learn What Makes a Quality Vintage

You are ready to taste once you develop the terminology knowledge and have a feel for the differences between grapes, regions and the wine making process. Start by attending an area wine tasting. Many liquor stores host these periodically, as do wineries.

Many tastings cost nothing and provide a quick lesson in how to appropriately taste wine. You’ll be availed of five to seven wine samples. Drink a glass of water before beginning. Always begin with a clean palate. Choose your first wine to taste. Smell it first. You want a pure, fruity scent with no vinegar scent. Vinegar or a smell similar to it shows cheap manufacturing and second or third press grapes. The best wines feature first press grapes. Take a sip of the wine. Let it sit on various areas of your tongue before swallowing. The tongue has multiple taste buds/areas and a good wine appeals to multiple areas. You’ll see sommeliers swish the wine in their mouths. This is not necessary in the public learning process. Swallow. The wine should go down smoothly with no aberrant aftertaste. Eat a piece of cheese and a cracker. (Served at tastings.) Drink a cup of water. This cleanses your palate for the next taste. Never drink two different wines directly after the one another, as the first wine will have tainted your palate to the second. After cleansing your palate, move to the second wine to repeat the complete tasting process.

Wine tastings provide a lovely, free way to experience a handful of wines in one evening and learn which grape is your favorite. This saves you money in the long run since you won’t waste money on Cabernets knowing you much prefer Sauvignon Blancs.

3- Learn Which Wine to Pair With Food

Once you’ve learned your favorite grapes and sampled some wines, you’ve completed the research to begin buying. You waste less money on bad wines by building your knowledge and tasting experience first. Purchase a bottle of your favorite at the wine tasting. Most liquor store tastings feature reasonably priced wines that performed well in tasting contests. You’ll spend about $15 to $25 on a bottle. Be sure to visit with the store owner while there, so they recall you when you return to shop.

Scout out at least three well-appointed, well-stocked wine or liquor stores in the area. Regularly attend their tastings. At least once a month, go in to shop for a new wine, asking the owner for advice. They know the wines they carry well and can help you choose one suited to your tastes and budget. Expect to pay at least $20 per bottle for first press grapes.

As you bring home your first bottle of wine, you’ll consult your wine readings – books, magazines and websites to learn which wines pair best with what food. While the basics include white with chicken or fish and red with beef, the complimentary pairings extend far beyond this. You need to learn what pairs well with sauces, vegetarian/vegan dishes, and what makes a good dessert wine. Also, learn the non-alcoholic wines, so everyone can enjoy the taste of fine grapes with your meals. Serving the appropriate wine with dinner makes the meal.

Follow these three key steps to become a wine connoisseur. Although the process is not instant, within the first six to eight weeks, you should start to feel comfortable with terms and tastings. Within a few months, you should feel comfortable making your own wine choices without consultation with others. Enjoy the learning process. It’s quite tasty.