So, this probably should be titled something more distinguished like “Discovering New Varietals” or “Expanding My Pallet,” but since my philosophy is to make wine approachable, let’s keep it simple.
There are essentially three ways I discover wine. They are:
- Wine Dinners
- Winery Tours / Tastings
- Dinner with Friends
This is probably the quirkiest way I discover wine. After all people either give you what they think you like to drink or what they like to drink. So, if they give something I haven’t tried, I look forward to it.
Winery Tours / Tastings
Covid lockdowns put a squash on this one, but when we travel, my husband and I enjoy touring local wineries. Our last road trip concentrated on bourbon, but I think our next one will be a nice mix of wine and spirits.
However, winery tours or even tasting rooms are a great way to discover new varietals and especially to easily learn about wine. The individuals working the tasting rooms want to tell you about the wine in detail, so you can start to learn about flavor, terrior, and wine etiquette.
The downside is that this is wine only – so eat before you go, or make sure you have snacks in the car. Although, some wineries have gotten smart and allow you to order food to go with the tasting.
Winery Tours/Tastings are usually a little less expensive than wine dinners – well, until you factor in the cost of gas these days.
Besides reading food and wine magazines, watching cooking shows and reading the tags on the shelves at the store. Sometimes a random conversation with a stranger in the aisle can lead to some amazing suggestions. Especially when they turn out to actually be a wine rep. Or, honestly – sometimes I just ask the people working at the store for their favorite red, white, sparkling. Plus, most upscale liquor stores usually have tastings on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons… if you can call the tiny cup that’s smaller than the cap on Dayquil a tasting.
Dinner with Friends
Whether dining out or at home, dinner with friends is a good way to try new wines. For the most part you’re probably friends with people who have the same taste palette as you, but sometimes you’re not. Sometimes too, it’s fun to just decide you’re going to try a wine that none of you have had so you can collectively decide if you like it or not. Think of this as hosting your own wine tasting.
Personally, this is my favorite way to discover new wines. Mostly because there is someone who is talking about the wine. It could be the vintner, the oenologist, or wine rep. But it means you can learn about the winery, the history and the wine itself. Not that you can’t Google the winery before you have friends over, but I learn better by listening, so this works for me.
It’s also a great way to try the wine with food. While a tour/tasting will give you pairing suggestions, sometimes the abstract notion of what to put with what you’re tasting is hard to grasp (at least for me). Wine dinners tell you if the cabernet really goes with steak, or if the white you tried is better with spicy foods or not. After all, the suggestions on the bottle are based off the winery and not your unique taste profile.
Date Night once a month is at a local steakhouse, which hosts a multicourse wine dinner. I particularly like it because it’s laid back. There is someone who talks about the wine and the chef talks about the food, but it’s like they are talking to friends – not giving a lecture. Also, it’s great because they give you a full pour (meaning a full glass, not just a taste or a half glass). And, if they have it, you can get seconds.
Plus, you can always listen in to other conversations, which can be amusing especially when they aren’t on the wine. But you can also hear what other people think of the selection, and watch who cleans their plate and drains their glass, and who does not.
However, the best judge as to if the wine is good or not, is when the volume level rises to the point that having an intimate conversation is difficult. This isn’t a great dinner for Grandpa Jay who will have to turn off his hearing aides to survive, but it does tell you that most people enjoyed the wine.