Learning about wine is daunting. I’m sure there are questions swirling around your head already.
Is that a strawberry or cherry aroma?
Should I be holding the stem, foot or bowl of the wine glass?
How do I know what I ‘should be’ tasting?
What? Why? How….oh dear…no wonder so many people are fearful of wine. Well, this doesn’t have to be the case. You had to learn to walk before you could run. Wine tasting is no different. The sooner you’re ready to make mistakes, learn from them and taste again, well, then you’re on your way to becoming a wine enthusiast and maybe even an expert!
I sure do sound like a teacher at this point. Once a teacher…always a teacher!
My best advice to anyone wishing to learn the ropes of wine tasting is to buy a book…not just any book, but rather, The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack. Puckette, a sommelier and graphic designer, together with Hammack, a computer web developer/designer, merged their talents and enthusiasm for wine to create one of the most informative, no-nonsense wine blogs out there, Wine Folly. Back in 2016 I took a wine appreciation course and this was one of the recommended books on our reading list and I’m so glad it was. Throughout my wine studies, I regularly find myself referencing this book and I think I know why…it’s just so user friendly…well, for my style of learning.
I’m primarily a visual learner, followed by kinesthetic and last but not least…auditory. Despite my best efforts, I retain very little information when I have to listen to it. I guess that I’m more of a seer and doer, than listener. I really have got the ‘teacher thing’ going today!
No, honestly, I’ve figured out that to successfully retain new information, I need to visualise it and that’s what makes Wine Folly my go-to wine text…it’s just so engaging to read, as the information is well organised, colourful, and riddled with eye-catching illustrations. When my mind is visually engaged, then my ability to retain information is much better. The book includes an initial guide to wine basics, such as how to smell and taste wine, serving wine, opening a bottle, and what glassware to choose. It is then cleverly divided into sections by wine style (eg: light bodied red wines) and not by countries or regions. I really find it frustrating when wine is categorised by country because not everyone knows which wines come from a particular country. Within each section, individual grape varieties and/or blends (eg: Champagne or Bordeaux) are explained. Each page follows the same format with a brief wine profile (fruit aroma intensity, body, tannins, acidity and alcohol levels), the most common “dominant” flavours, a flavour wheel with possible additional aromas/flavours organised into cluster families, where it grows and how the grape expresses itself in cool to warm climates, price guidelines, pairings and even more information to further develop your knowledge. Finally, there is an entire section dedicated to maps and learning where the different grape varieties are grown. These are detailed, colourful and extensive, but definitely what you need as a wine scholar!!
So…what type of learner are you? Once you’ve figured this out, then your ability to understand and fully appreciate the world or wine will be easier. You need to tap into your strengths so you have the ammo to tackle the challenging bits, as learning about wine can be overwhelming because there’s just so much information to memorise and understand. Good luck with your journey into the wonderful world or wine!