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Wine novice syndrome. We’ve all been there. Whether it was a poorly chosen bottle of wine you offered your dinner party host, the glass of wine “spritzer” you ordered at a work event, or the flicker of condescension on the wine sommelier’s face when you are overwhelmed by the wine list at a restaurant, it’s the moment we feel our wine knowledge inferiority and become determined to change our status. The reason I say we’ve ALL been there, is that no one is born with an innate knowledge of wine. It is a knowledge gained after years of experimenting, taking recommendations, wine tastings, and even failures that help you decide what you consider to be a good bottle of wine. And because wine is so personal, there really are no wrong answers – even if your taste is miles from what a wine connoisseur would consider “fine”. So how do you find out what wine you actually like? Practice. Here are a few of our best tips on where to begin.

Make A Few Selections At The Wine Store

A trip to the liquor or wine store introduces you to a wide variety of wines. As confusing as this shopping experience may prove to be, at this stage your goal is to find two or three red varieties and two or three whites. I use the term varieties, because I want you to choose by the type of wine, not the color or vineyard. So wine varieties would be something like Merlot, Chardonnay, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, etc. You might be tempted to ask for help, but remember the first question will be “What type of wines do you prefer?” This is what you’re trying to find out! So, you need to go it alone. Also, they’ll start using words to describe the wine, literally putting tastes into your mouth by building up expectations. This won’t work when you are trying to decide what you like. With wine in hand, head home for your first wine tasting.

What Wine Do I Like – Red

When you get ready to do your tasting, you’ll want to sample your red wine at the ideal temperature. For reds that is about 65°F. Despite rumors that red wine should be served at “room temperature” if your room is over 65°F, the wine should be chilled in the fridge. A good rule of thumb is to chill it, take it out of the fridge for about an hour and then pour a glass and let it “breathe” for about 10 minutes. Don’t get too caught up in the whole “proper wine glass” thing. For now, that’s not necessary. Choose a wine glass with a nice wide bottom and narrow top and it will do well for red and white.

What Wine Do I Like – White

You don’t want your white wine to be overly chilled. Instead it should be about 55°F. Once you get to know more about wine, you’ll learn about detailed serving temperatures for different varieties, but for now, we’ll stick to 55°F. Chill your wine in the fridge and then let it warm for about 10 minutes before pouring. This will bring out its deeper flavors.

Use Your Words

Now it’s time to start tasting. Grab a pen and paper and create a makeshift chart. You can be as detailed or casual with the chart as you like, as long as you list the wine’s color, vineyard and type. You then need to leave space to describe the wine in words that help you remember if you liked it or not. Start tasting considering these three components:

  1. Nose: Describe the smell of the wine, taking several sniffs to get all of the various innuendos.
  2. Taste: Sip the wine and let the flavors sit in your mouth, so you can consider all the nuances of the taste you experience and describe them.
  3. Texture: Figuring out texture takes a second sip so that is all you focus on once you’ve described the taste. This might seem odd, but once you feel the wine in your mouth, it will feel fizzy or heavy, smooth, or even chalky. This is important especially for red wines, as a wine that coats your tongue has more “tannins”. You’ll hear this word a lot, so knowing if you like wines with higher tannins is helpful when answering the question of “what wines do I like?”

Write down your descriptions using words that resonate with you and will help you remember what you liked or disliked about the taste.

What Wine Do I Like – Yeah or Nay

Now that you’ve gotten your first impressions, sip the wine slowly to note the various characteristics as they develop. The longer your wine breathes, and as the temperature changes, the flavors will become slightly different. Once you get a real feel for the taste and experience of the wine, you can decide if you like it or not. If you just find the wine so-so, it’s not worth investing in another bottle, so you don’t need to use a complicated rating system unless that’s your thing. Yes or no will do!

Second Trip To The Wine Shop

Once you get a feel for the wines you enjoyed, you can continue experimenting with tastings. You now have a better understanding of the variety of wine and color you prefer. You also have some words to describe the wines you like, making it easier to ask for help. Discuss wines with the owner or wine attendant, and they will direct you to wines with your preferred characteristics. Your wine journey has begun. You can now build on your taste preferences as you experience more and more wines. As you begin to recognize wines by region, vineyard and variety you can watch your confidence bloom. This is an exciting leg of your wine appreciation as it opens you up to a world of wine experience possibilities.

Join A Club

Another excellent way to learn more about the wines you actually like is to join a wine club like ours, or simply shop by an importer. You will receive exclusive wine options, enjoy discounts, you can easily order based on your preferences, and most importantly you will have access to rare and unique wines you can’t find anywhere else in the country. Sign up for the Yours Truly Wine Club here

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