How to Find a Good Wine
One of the mysteries I had growing up was how so many people liked wine. I mean I had tried MD 20/20 and sure it was a pretty cool drunk, but the hangover was killer. I wondered why anyone would want to drink any liquid that came out of a box that didn’t have a straw attached. I’d walk by the aisles in grocery and liquor stores and think, how would you know which one is like Night Train and which one is like Chateau Lafite Rothschild? (I think that is the wine all movies use to signal “fancy.”)
Fortunately, I found a wine savior in the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, CO. (Coming June 18th to 20th this year.) A weekend there is an amazing lesson in all the possibilities wine has to offer, but even if you can’t go there (and at nearly $1,200 a ticket, it is a bit cost prohibitive), you can still explore wines in much the same way and before long you can start to make some educated choices.
Tasting. The beautiful thing at the Food and Wine Festival are the various wine seminars offered by experts where they share great wines with you along a theme. Here you will come across all sorts of different varietals and types of wines from different regions that you can taste to see if you enjoy. The thing is, you can find the same sort of things in your hometown. For example, BevMo! in California will have events where they will give you tastes of different wines on a theme. It may not be as concentrated as in Aspen, but look enough and you can find ways to try all sorts of new wines.
Reading. The Food and Wine Festival is sponsored by Food and Wine magazine (what a coincidence!) and is part of the swag that you get for your price of admission. Of course, the online component for Food and Wine along with Saveur can give you great ideas on wines to try without the clutter on your coffee table. I’m a big fan of research, and these two sites will make it easier to figure out the wine aisle.
Visiting. The Food and Wine Festival makes it easy to visit wineries from all over the world in the grand tasting tent as they convene in an effort to get you to buy their product, or as sometimes is the case, to get you drunk. It is possible that some wineries in your area actually have good wines and is just not a place for the local college students to get drunk. Start there and try their bottles of wine. To me though, the real fun is branching out and visiting wineries when you take a trip and possibly discovering something new and tasty. The movie Sideways is all about that kind of adventure in the Napa Valley and the wineries there, but a little research can find others in other states like the Willamette Valley in Oregon. My personal favorites are the port wineries in Porto, Portugal. (That’s repetitive.) Wineries want to sell you wine, and they will give you tastes and tours in order to make it happen. I had a five-course meal with a different port for each course for about $50 at a winery in Porto and a Cuban cigar to finish. You can’t get much better than that, at least for me. Because of that meal, I still look forward to a 20-year-old tawny port as part of a restaurant visit to this day. As part of your reading, research different locations so that even if you don’t take a trip, you will be familiar with the regions and what they offer – which can help when you pick out a bottle at the market.
Drinking (and keeping notes). The biggest thing is that you’re going to have to drink wine to know what you like. (What a sacrifice.) The more you drink (yea!) the more you know. Soon you may find a list of five Chilean wines that you like, so that you feel very comfortable picking up a Chilean wine without doing any research. Maybe you find that you like the dry flavor offered by the wines from the Syrah grape and walking down a wine aisle you’ll just gravitate to the Syrah offerings. The more that you keep track of, the better the information you’ll have to be sure that the wine you choose will taste great to you.
Which, when you’re planning a perfect date to impress a girl, is when all of this research will pay off. Happy drinking.
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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."