It seems without fail, once people realize I am a wine nut, they ask me what they should buy. While I enjoy helping people find good wine at a reasonable cost, it is almost impossible to predict what someone may like. This column is for all of you that ask for assistance in what to try and what to buy. If you can give me answers to the following three questions, I can make a solid recommendation on the wine or wines you should be trying.
What do you like? This seems like a simple question, but surprisingly, wine newbies have no clue to the answer. It is important to know what wines and varietals you like. When you come across a wine you find tasty, you need to write down or remember three things. What varietal, what winery/vineyard and what year are all found on the label. If I am supplied this information, I can usually make some recommendations that will probably suit your taste and budget. Without this information, I have no point of reference that would enable me to make a valid recommendation. As with most subjects, knowledge is power.
Learning about wine is a process. Your tastes will change over time as you learn more about wine, and more about your particular palate. New wine drinkers are usually attracted to fruit forward wines. California and Australian wines will be in abundance on your favorites list. Slowly but surely, you will start to appreciate some of the more complex nuances of a good wine. Depth, layers of flavor, length of finish are all key components of a good wine. You may eventually replace fruit forward wines with more complex, balanced wines. You also may not! To this day I occasionally crave a good Californian or Australian "Fruit Bomb".
Start a wine journal. It does not have to be complicated. List the wines you have tried with comments on how you liked the wine. It does not have to be in "wine speak". Whatever words you choose should be able to bring you back to the experience and give you a quick summary of how much you liked, or did not like, the wine. You will be amazed how helpful this will be for you in the future. Over time, you may even see your tastes start to change as you become more educated about what you like.
If you are drinking wine with someone that is more knowledgeable then you are, ask questions. To this day I still ask my wine friends what they smell on the nose, what they taste in the glass and what their impressions are of the wine overall. I am still learning to identify different aromas and flavours in the glass. The more experience a person has with wine, the more specific they can be in describing the wine using words. As you become more experienced with wine, you can use these verbal descriptors to determine if a wine may suit your taste.
Share your favorites with others. They will share their experiences with you. I cannot tell you how many great wines I have found through friends and reader recommendations. Wine is made to drink with friends. Old friends, new friends and wine friends. Did I leave anyone out? Enjoy!