Like many of us, as a fresh-faced 18 year old I must admit, I didn’t really have too much of an interest in learning about the intricacies of wine. Unless you were talking about a box of fruity goon mixed with lemon lime bitters, I had no clue.
Now, although there’s still much to learn in regards to the wide world of wine, I can say I have a good grasp on the things listed below. In no particular order, here are five things I wish I knew about wine when I first started sipping the age-old beverage.
- Let’s perhaps start off with the simplest thing I wish I knew - the difference between the wine varieties. These days I can distinguish between a Tempranillo and a Pinot Noir, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Riesling, but starting out is tricky! Beats me if I knew the difference between a Shiraz and a Chardonnay. I know, I know, it doesn’t take a genius to look at the glass and distinguish between its red or white hue, but if I was asked to pop down to the bottle shop and grab a Grenache it’d be a different story. So, to avoid embarrassment and to up your wine knowledge quick-smart, I’d say the first thing to do is to learn your red varietals from your white. Check out google for a cheeky cheat sheet, I’m sure there are many.
- When buying wine, don’t be afraid to ask the bottle shop workers questions, let them help you in finding the right wine for your palate and budget. It can be daunting trying to choose between the rows upon rows of different wines, how do you know which will pair well with your signature dish? Will others like it? If I pick the cheapest will they know? Let the professionals guide you, you’ll learn as they’re chatting away and if you like what they pick for you, it’s an easy choice for next time, and if not… there’s always sangria to be made.
- When faced with the unsettling and all too familiar interaction with a wine snob, your best course of action is to vacantly nod along. There are a few occasions that the wine-snob will flock to, but whichever the circumstance, always make sure you have a polite excuse up your sleeve to exit the conversation. Of course, there are a few buzzwords that you should keep in your repertoire in case of any run-ins (think: dry, refined, fragrant, density etc.) But if you’re at a casual event and hear someone describe the same Cabernet that you described to be “rather nice” as “medium-bodied with aromas of rich dark currents that offset the charred acidity nicely in contrast to its dense robust tannins…” smile, nod and slowly back away.
- Know how to hold your wine glass correctly. When it comes to looking the part, the age-old proverb “fake it ‘til you make it” comes to mind. Always hold your glass towards the base of the stem. Most importantly, this ensures that your drink doesn’t warm to the temperature of your hand but also guarantees that you don’t get any unsightly fingerprints on your glass (god forbid).
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions! There are so many unwritten and unspoken rules when it comes to wine that it can be hard to keep up. But perhaps the most pertinent lesson to learn when you first start upon your journey into wine, is to not be afraid to ask the stupid questions, as it’s truly the best way to learn. Just remember, to anyone who judges you for asking something ‘obvious’, refer back to lesson number three. Smile, nod, slowly back away and find someone better to enjoy a glass with.