How to drink wine

I’m going to write a series about how to drink wine, because without such advice, people would not be able to properly appreciate it.  Or, at least that’s what you would believe if you read any of the articles and books that currently exist on the topic.

Consider the typical tutorial on how to do a wine tasting:

  1. Pour the wine into the glass so as not to disturb the tannins
  2. Do NOT taste the wine.
  3. Hold the wine up to the light at a 34 degree angle and observe how the color changes from the center of the light to the edge of the wine. Note the “legs” of the wine (also known as the wine’s “gams”)
  4. Hold your nose exactly 0.7 inches away from the edge of the glass, unless it is a Merlot, in which case actually dip your nose directly into the liquid and blow bubbles
  5. Note the aromas of the wine, taking note of any familiar scents from your childhood, such as vanilla, blackberry, almonds, new car smell and cat pee (this last one is actually really used in wine reviews)
  6. Put the wine on your lips but not in your mouth. Rub it in between your lips and note the viscosity
  7. Put one 1.5 tablespoons of wine into your mouth and swish all around in between your teeth
  8. Record the temperature of the wine and note any familiar temperatures from your childhood, such as “brisky like a San Francisco summer” or “hot as a snake’s ass in a wagon rut”
  9. Taste the wine
  10. How does it make you feel? Describe your emotions.
  11. And on and on

I wish that description was more than 50% made up. Seriously people, you take yourselves way too seriously. The last time we tasted in Napa, someone tried to do that with a cheese tasting. “Hold the cheese up to the light and note its color and translucency.” Are…you…kidding?

After 15 years of tasting wine, I still feel intimidated by these people. Wine is so amazingly universal, and yet so unapproachable because people put up barriers that say “you have to do this or, be this way, or know this to drink it.” But it’s false. You know what I’ve learned after tasting literally thousands of wines? If you like the wine, it’s a good wine.  As a beginner, this sentiment can make you feel a little amateurish, but it holds true all this time later.

It’s quite tempting to want to describe why you like a wine, or describe to someone else why they should like it, but in the end, if you taste it and it’s good, you don’t need any of that other stuff to fully and completely enjoy it just as much as anyone else.

Perhaps the best representation of this is from the movie Sideways. All these years later, I still identify with the second guy:

The truth is that if you drink wine long enough, you’ll understand why people are this way, but you don’t have to understand all this to get just as much enjoyment out of a cheap bottle or an expensive bottle of wine.  So what do you need to know?

I’ve got three posts lined up for this week:

  1. Why are wine people so snooty?
  2. What kind of wine will I like and how much should I spend?
  3. How do I get the most enjoyment out of a bottle of wine?

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