The path to becoming a wine expert can be a daunting one, especially if you’re just starting out. Experienced connoisseurs will try to challenge what you know and other people will try to tell you what you should be drinking. Luckily, you have some help. Here are some steps for how to become an expert in wines.
Develop a Taste
Like with many things, the taste for wine tends to be an acquired one. Even the most prominent experts began their journey by sampling modest fare. The best advice is to start with a wine that you already enjoy, no matter how ordinary it is. Everybody has to start somewhere, and if you don’t like the wine you’re drinking, you’ll never foster a love for it. Many people like to start with sweet, mild and fruity wines like white zinfandel or moscato. As your experience progresses, you can step confidently into the world of bold, dark wines. When sampling wine, it’s important to swish it around in your mouth rather than swallowing it immediately. This allows you to pick up its more subtle characteristics.
Find Your “A-Ha!” Wine
By this point, you’re no stranger to a variety of wines. You’ve sampled everything from cabernet sauvignons and pinor noirs to chardonnays and d’oros. At some point along your quest for wine expertise, you’ll find a variety that stands out from all of the others, the one that makes you say, “A-ha!” In most cases, these won’t come from a region that you’re familiar with. It may also be one that doesn’t fit into your preconceived notions about what a wine should be. It could be sweet and light, floral, peppery or savoury. Rest assured that it will be something unique. Many rare, unusual and unique wines can be had from good wine brokers.
Read a Book
There are countless wine books available to choose from. Some will tell you how to make wine, and others are simply full of pictures of wine. During your journey to becoming an expert, you should foster an understanding of regional wines. Getting a quality book on regional wines can help you pave the way toward your goal by familiarising you with the unfamiliar. The book should contain information like which wines are from which grapes as well as terminology for different wines and characteristics.
Expand your Tastes
A lot of people are happy to settle for bold red wines and don’t care for much else. In fact, most folks discover their favourites from this category. It’s important to understand that many of the people around you will be comfortable with this, so the next time you’re planning a social get-together, keep that in mind when picking a wine for the occasion. You, however, are probably ready to move on to wines with more complexity.
Complex wines are those where you can detect the following:
- There are two or more detectable flavours of fruit
- There are three or more other overtones present like chalk, spices, herbs or flowers.
- The wine’s taste changes as you swallow it
At this point, you’ve tried countless wines and you can pick a good one from a wine list with confidence. It doesn’t matter if some wine names are unfamiliar. It’s enough that you recognise a good wine by its region and varietal. Combining wine and food choices has also become second-nature. You’re now a blossoming wine expert and connoisseur, but there is still a lot to learn. Keep fine-tuning your skills to become a true master. Consider building a collection by visiting a wine broker and acquiring wine valuations. Because this is often done as an investment, wine valuations are important for protecting your collection.
Ursula Jones is a writer and food & drink lover who writes about wine brokers for Boltons Investments