Often people walk into the bar and say:
'I don't really know anything about wine but I'd really like to learn.'
I always respond to this enthusiastically as anyone wanting to educate themselves about anything should be applauded, not patronised or discouraged. When asked how to go about it, the answer is a little bit more complex. To be brutally honest there is no hard and fast rule to becoming a 'wine expert' (something that I definitely do not consider myself by the way!). However there are a number of avenues that you can take to increase your confidence and start to get a feel for your own wine palette.
'A book!?' I hear you scream as you spit your tea across the room. It may not be as immediate as jumping on google and finding what you need but there are advantages of sitting down with these papered word prisons. Generally you can trust the information that you get in them as they're usually written by people with decades in the industry. This also means that they take into account their audience and explain things in an easygoing manner. Plus lovely glossy pics of grapes and vineyards drools slightly.
Recommendations include 'Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine', with graphics that allow you to skim through for reference and enough meat for the aficionados to get stuck into.
'The Wine Bible' by Karen MacNeil. Detailed chapters on many of the world's wine regions and their top wines. This book is a good one to grow into, giving a fab overview of the wine world.
'World Atlas of Wine – Various editions' by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson. The doyenne and dean of wine writing have produced this glorious compendium of grapey delight. With clear, strong writing but a pretty hefty volume to boot, this is for when you've taken off your training wheels!
We all know the internet is the best thing since sliced bread, right? There are a multitude of websites, Youtube videos and blogs that can be accessed quickly on the move BUT I'm going to don my grumpy old man hat here. BE CAREFUL what sources you use to research about wine. There are a fair few shoddy, low quality and poorly researched clickbait sites and videos that will set you back massively by pushing myths and misconceptions onto you.
An example of this was that a fairly recent blog (naming no names of course) was insistent that putting a spoon in the top of a sparkling wine bottle will help it keep its fizz cue second tea spitting episode of the day. It even made clear that people who don't do this are snobs and need fancy vacuum lids that cost the earth.
Heads up. Its not the spoon that keeps the sparkle. Its the fact you put it in the fridge. Colder temperatures mean less dissolved carbon dioxide will be escaping. The best solution IS a vacuum stopper and they cost a grand total of ~£10 (for 2) including the pump. Not really a bank breaker.
There are some fantastic resources out there though:
Wine folly – Same deal with the book that I mentioned previously. Easy to understand site with masses of information, slick graphics and constant updates.
Wine Spectator 'Ask Dr. Vinny' – My personal favourite and something that I have subscribed to and read every time they publish a post. A wine expert answers the questions that you've always wanted to ask. One of the most recent is 'Is it OK to freeze wine and drink it later?'. The answer may surprise you.
Last but not least is the Oz Clarke series of videos called 'Lets talk about..' on Youtube. They are quite difficult to find but are filled with Oz's signature enthusiasm and sense of fun when talking about wine. The 60 second wine expert also has some great stuff on there.
Go to a wine tasting
This is something that can seem quite daunting to people who lack a bit of confidence with their palette and how they describe what they like. Don't worry! The whole point is that it's meant to be fun and you can try some wines that you may never have been exposed to before. You can also ask any questions that you'd like in an informal setting with like-minded people.
SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT
Bottles Wine Bar runs a popular monthly Wine Tasting running around a different theme each time, either by region or around a seasonal idea like Christmas or Summer.
Thursday 31st October – Casa Lapostolle Chilean Wine Tasting. We have a sommelier coming from the vineyard in question so you can be sure that it will be informative and engaging, with no dry lecturing or rules to follow. Its a cracking deal at £15 a head, with tasters of 6-8 different wines and some nibbles thrown in as well. Give it a bash!
Tickets available on https://bottles-worcester.co.uk/ or pop into the bar and book in person.
And probably the most important in my opinion....
Try lots of different wines
As with everything in life, practice makes perfect. You can't expect to pick up a guitar and immediately play like Eric Clapton. You can't pick up a bottle of wine and pick out every single flavour and aroma without training your tastebuds first. It can be especially hard for people starting out to taste primary flavours.
When you eat a blackberry you have the aroma, flavour AND texture that tells your brain what it is. Picking it out from other flavours when you taste a glass of wine, as well as the obvious alcohol content is something that you have to work at. Luckily it doesn't seem like a chore....because you get to drink wine! Try lots of different grape varieties, lots of different wines from the same grape, different countries and different winemaking techniques.
The take-away from this is to have fun. Wine is sociable and drinking it with friends, with some grub involved as well, is what its all about. If you're happy with what you like, brilliant. If you want to learn some more, fabulous.
Cheers to that