How to get started:
- A great place to start would be to attend a course. There are loads of courses available around the country but if you fancy learning a bit more informally why not get friends together and make an evening of it. Each of you study a wine and present it to the group. It’ll be fun and interactive and because you are with friends it won’t be as daunting.
- Buy yourself a tasting note book. Every time you try a new wine, jot something down, even if it’s only a few words. The more you do it the easier it becomes and you gradually build up a ‘bank’ of smells and flavours. After a while you’ll realise you remember aromas and tastes a lot easier and you’ll start analysing everything from food to your cup of tea!
- Go on a vineyard tour, either here or abroad. When you see where and how the grapes are grown and made into wine, what you end up drinking makes a lot more sense. And don’t be afraid to ask questions, most people will be happy you’re taking such an interest and will want to explain further.
- Use the internet/magazines. Specialist publications give great tips and advice on what to try and what to avoid, where to visit and what’s on the horizon. Wine bloggers and critics are very useful because they do the tastings on your behalf but try not to get bogged down with just one person’s style/opinion, listen to what they say but ultimately make up your own mind.
- Practice! It makes perfect, you know. Just keep trying wine and learn what you like and what you’re not so keen on. Most wineries have comprehensive websites so go and have a look and read what they have to say about the vintage conditions, the winemaking techniques and their tasting notes. The more you understand the more you’ll ‘get it’ and enjoy.
- Take off your blinkers. Just because you had a Chardonnay 10 years ago and didn’t like it, doesn’t mean you’ll dislike all Chardonnay now. There are so many styles from so many countries. Wine is dynamic and so are you, your tastes change so keep trying.
- Go Gourmet. To explore the relationship between food and wine have nights in with friends. Everybody bring a bottle and create a dish that classically works with that wine. Try everybody’s food and wine selection then see what else works with what and have a free for all. Great night in, price of a bottle of wine, lots of fun and maybe learn something too.
- Blind tasting. Once you’ve got a bit more confidence, try tasting wine blind. Get a partner or friend to pour the wine for you so you have to guess what it is. It’s difficult but you’ll learn to smell and taste what is actually there, not what you think should be there when you know what it is. And don’t worry if you get it wrong, enjoy the wine and try again another day!