By Maggie Walters
Hey there! It’s your resident wine geek! As always, I am here to help and this time it’s with more tips to help set a great foundation with wine. Wine knowledge isn’t a race and we all have our own journey and experiences. Here are a few more tips on how to navigate this vast and sometimes confusing industry. You can also check out more tips here from my previous blog!
1. Don’t write off wines with screw caps.
I am so happy to report that this stigma is being blown out of the water and that it’s not nearly the issue that it once was. However, there is still some uncertainty about this slightly less romantic closure. Screw caps don’t look as traditional as corks, but it shouldn’t affect our purchasing decisions. Luckily, the presentation of the closure has no reflection on the juice within. Even more of a surprise, screw caps are a guarantee of quality (say what??). There’s a wine fault called cork taint that affects about 1 in every hundred bottles of wine. The culprit? The cork itself! There’s bacteria in the cork that reacts poorly with chlorine in a winery and effects about 3% of wine in the world. Choosing a wine with a screw cap completely reduces this risk; there's no cork to dry out in the bottle and screw caps are eco-friendly!
2. Do speak up if there’s something wrong with your wine!
Cork taint is a fault which makes your wine smell like wet cardboard (gross). Not exactly ideal. Believe it or not, there are 7 common wine faults. If something isn’t right with your wine, take it back to the retailer. Wine faults come with the territory and retail shops should be happy to replace your bottle with another one. Wineries even give stores credit on bottles we send back! It’s just a fact of life when you’re dealing with fermented grape juice. So, if your recently purchased wine smells like vinegar or is brackish in color, it’s totally OK to send up a red flag.
3. Don’t write off sweet wine.
Drinking cheap sweet wine with cute animals on the label in college was not the best way to start your wine journey, but let’s not discredit sweet wine as a whole. There are some amazing, rare and expensive bottles of the sweet stuff out there that deserve some serious credit. Ever heard of Chateau d’Yquem? It’s a first growth Bordeaux and it’s sweet! This type of sweet wine, known as Sauternes, paired with foie gras is nothing short of amazing and is usually seen on the most special of high end restaurant menus. So if someone offers you some blue cheese with a vintage port, my advice is try it! Who cares if it’s sweet, it’s just good.
4. Do take notes.
What to become a better taster? Take notes. Even if the wine is for drinking while watching Netflix on the couch. My notes as a beginner were not impressive or lengthy (some read “I smell apple”). After a few months of jotting down what I smelled and tasted, my note taking got more descriptive. Note taking is just a reflection of palate development. Sometimes we have to teach ourselves to pay attention to what’s going on in the glass to develop our palates. Taking notes is a great way to push ourselves to pay attention. I passed my WSET advanced blind tasting with a perfect score. I promise my palate was not perfect when I first started drinking wine! Taking tasting notes definitely helped.
5. Don’t confuse price point with quality.
This is probably one of the more difficult stigmas to retire. Yes, there are some amazing wines priced like a car payment. There are also some amazing wines that won’t break the bank. I’m not talking about settling, either. I’m talking about good wine that’s worth raving about! The easiest way to find these wines is to create a relationship with someone at a local wine shop. They do all of the work for you, sort out the duds and know how to recommend a wine for your palate. Your wine shop buddy can clue you in on a wine region that creates wines of quality but isn’t popular yet. I’ve had a popular $200 wine that didn’t stack up next to a $25 Priorat. It’s all about knowing where to look or who to ask!
Learning about wine is never ending. I hope my dos and don’ts bust some stigmas and encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone, whether it’s trying a new wine or learning more and developing your palate. If you ever have questions or want other topics covered in a blog, you can let me know here in the comments or find me in the store!
Here’s to Happy Drinking,