This post will explain how to get into wines for the enjoyment and social benefit for all involved and will motivate the reader to start quaffing wine with educated enthusiasm.
Is anyone else a bit embarrassed to admit that they know, like, nothing about wine? I’m a gainfully employed, educated grownup and I seriously have no idea what to do when a hostess asks me to grab a bottle to bring to supper. I can thank my wonderful parents for teaching me about craft beers, homegrown beef, and canning, but when it comes to wine I am woefully late to the party. I knew I could not possibly be the only gal out there and I thought my Wildflower readers would appreciate a little introductory guide to wine.
Let me introduce you to the perfect person to bring us into the wine fold. My friend Jenny (we have been calling each other “the other Jenny” since we met 15 years ago) is what I would consider my kind of wine enthusiast. She never has her nose in the air about anything, she’s totally practical, whip-smart, and she likes wine. She’s also a great sport and when I asked her to write a guest post, she had it done and another planned in no time.
Here is Jenny Zink’s guide to wine for beginners:
When I first thought about the possibility of writing a wine post I was a little apprehensive. Let’s face it: I usually write about marketing and data analysis, which is not nearly as fun a drinking wine! But then I thought every post I have ever read by a certified expert has gone way over my head. If you’re like me you probably just want to hear from someone who can talk, using normal language, about wine. I think most of us are probably just moms or dads that after a long day want to be able to have a glass of something other than Franzia. So if you are a sommelier, please stop reading now. What follows will most certainly give you an aneurysm and then you will roll over in your grave at least 3 times before you reach the end. Everyone else, please proceed.
Let’s talk about journaling. I don’t mean you have to write a long story about how you got the wine or what you were doing when you were drinking it. With the vast number of different types of wine paired with the fact that wines can vary dramatically depending on the winemaker, it is extremely helpful if you have some sort of way to help you remember what you liked and what you didn’t. I am horrible at this because really after a glass or two or three of wine who’s going to remember to go get a piece of paper and write it down anyways? What I found helpful is to take a picture of the bottle and use a rating. I have a friend who has a notebook that is separated out into the different varietals and she keeps notes in there but for me, I need it digitally so I have it when I need it. Bottom line, if you really want to start to get to know your wines you really do need to write down. Keep it simple what did you like and what didn’t you like. It will also be fun to see how your taste buds progress!
The thing I did that really started to spur my interest in wine was a local wine tour. I highly recommend if you’re interested in wine to find a tour so you can go on a wine tasting adventure. Preferably one that’s not in Napa, the mother of all wine tasting experiences. The wineries there are too established and touristy, in my opinion, for it to be a great learning experience. Napa is placed to go after you have some knowledge under your belt or if you just want to go on a girl vacation and drink lots of wine.
For learning sake, look for one in an up-and-coming wine area. What’s nice about going on a wine tour especially if they’re going to take you to small wineries is that there’s a high probability that you will get to meet the actual winemakers and they have a wealth of knowledge and are truly passionate about what they do.
I went on the wine trolley that leaves from Seven Feathers in Oregon. We went to a couple larger wineries that had good wine and knowledgeable pourers. But the real gems were the small wineries that we went to. One, in particular, I was a little leery of as we were driving down an old bumpy road and pulled up to their barn. First I thought this trolley is never getting out of this driveway but I figured if you are going to get stuck anywhere may as well be with a barn full of wine! But it was one of the best experiences I’ve had and one that spurred my further interest in the wine industry. In this little barn, the most valuable thing I learned from the man who makes the wine is about the pairing. He told me that there’s a lot of science behind pairing wine with food. He explained a lot of it, that was far too technical for me to remember. But he said this, “Drink wine with your food. If it tastes good to do it again; if it doesn’t don’t do that again and try something different”. I definitely laughed out loud. It sounds simple but when faced with the daunting task of what wine do you drink with what this seemed like a reasonable answer. That’s what so cool about getting to talk to the small time winemakers. They are super passionate about wine. They aren’t at the uber winemaker level where they don’t have time to talk to you. AND they can talk to you and in plain English about the wine and how you can slowly start to build your own knowledge.
I’m by no means an expert at wine pairing mostly because I’m horrible at keeping track of those kinds of details, as we learned with my lack of journaling ability. But I use a general rule of thumb that I think is valuable for pairing wines: go with the color. White wines go with white meat red wines go with red meat. Sweet wines go with cake. And that’s all I do folks. Once you’ve started to pair your wines with your food you’ll be able to tell that you don’t like Merlot with pork and that you love a Chardonnay with your tilapia. What is the science behind that? I have no idea but I’m sure there are some bloggers out there who will give you the highfalutin explanation of how you pick which one to go with which dish. For the rest of us, the color is a good standby.
For years and years, I thought I can’t afford to join the wine club because I thought they cost thousands of dollars a month. But, it seems like with the rise of the internet winemakers have got onboard with the idea that the average Jane would also like to be in a wine club.
I’m a member of nakedwines.com. Hold the phone that doesn’t mean we’re drinking naked that’s just the name of the company. The reason why I decided to join this particular club is that it supports small independent winemakers that are trying to get their start. You get a lot of wines from emerging wine regions. You will also get a few wines from overseas like Italy, France, and Australia. I like it because it’s $40 a month but you don’t get a bottle of wine every month instead you put your $40 in and you can save up until you have enough to purchase a case. Members are called Angels because we’re supporting small wineries and helping them grow their businesses.
The other cool thing, if you’re like me and you flounder when trying to pick what you want, you can email them and ask them to build a custom case for your tastes. BINGO! You can email them and say I hate Chardonnay, I love Riesling and I like to try other types that are not common. The other awesome thing – it’s delivered to your door. Seriously my last order came the next day. Don’t ask me how that happened since I live in the Boondocks but I swear it has to be something to do with the fact that the Universe knew I better not run out of wine.
Before I go, I have to say, get some wine friends. Drinking wine is always more fun with friends! But also you can talk about the wine with friends. Remind each other not to get a wine rut – where you really like Merlot so that is all you drink. Help each other branch out. Help each remember to write down that you hated that wine with the dog on it or that you loved that one with the two birds. Someone or a few someones who will be just as excited as you are when you find a new wine that loves. Wine friends are good.
Now go forth and explore new wines! – and get the journal going 🙂