[image via Wikimedia Commons]
All of us wish we could be the person in the restaurant who can navigate the wine list with ease, recommending the perfect glass to match anyone’s meal, or the dinner party guest who brings the perfect, reasonably-priced drop that complements the food and that everyone enjoys. It’s a great skill to have, up there with being a good conversationalist or being able to cook soufflé in terms of added value to a social situation where food and drink will be present.
Here are five smart ways to brush up on your skills:
Choose recipe books with wine advice
The simplest way of learning which wines go with what flavours is to start cooking from a recipe that recommends matched wines, and – this part is crucial – buying the wines that are suggested. Read the labels to get a feel for the regions and flavours to begin making connections between types of grape and different foods.
Take a wine tasting tour
A field trip is the most immersive way to get a handle on what you’re drinking. Combine your curiosity for learning wine with some travel and you’ll have a memorable point of reference, and with the vineyards of France, Italy, Spain and Germany there’s no reason not to. Put arrangements in the hands of professionals to ensure you have expert knowledge to direct you around the regions and give you all the best tips. Plus, if you drive to the source it means you can even stock up on a few bottles to bring home with you and very competitive rates!
Join a wine club
There are plenty of wine clubs out there that curate and deliver a selection of wines for you to try, with tasting notes attached. Very little effort required.
Read a few blogs
There are plenty of blogs out there for wine explorers. From respected food writers to people just finding their way, it’s a good way to pick up tips on storage, glasses, room temperatures and pairings. Maybe you could even start one yourself?
Trial and error!
Keep trying new wines until you develop a palate. Greater cost doesn’t always equate to greater wine, so try a range of prices and keep an eye out for specials. This will help you get to know different grapes. Another good tip is to take a photo of the label any time you try a particularly nice wine.
Learning about wine is a lifelong project for many – it’s about getting the most enjoyment out of a glass of wine – whether a solitary glass, to accompany a meal or a cheese board, the best value for money and appreciating the art of wine-makers whose knowledge goes back generations.
Vivienne Egan writes for SmoothRed who organise wine tours and tasting across Europe.