Lessons in wine: Don't be intimidated by fine wine, it's a fun journey

Renee Kuo
As fun as it is to taste wines, do so in moderation (Source: Getty)

Recently in this column we have waxed didactic on popular wine regions for drinking and investment, detailing facts about Bordeaux, Champagne, and Tuscany.

But for readers who are new to fine wine and perhaps overwhelmed by the plethora of information, how and where does one start?

The easiest answer, of course, is via client dinners on the company expense account, but those days are mostly long gone.

The good news is that the world of wine is a journey, so pick any starting point -- be it colour, grape type, or region -- and let the fun begin.

You will undoubtedly find your “favourite” wines and regions changing over time. Think of your days at university: are you still trying to maximize your salad stack at Pizza Hut?

Does the kebab van still call you like a siren in the wee hours of the morning? Or has your palate moved on?

My first wine memory was helping myself to the box of Gallo Hearty Burgundy rosé in my parents’ fridge. It was neither hearty nor Burgundy; it was pink and tasted of melted Fruit Loops.

From there my tastes grew more sophisticated: white Zinfandel. It was the bee’s knees until I stumbled upon Australian Shiraz. Then Napa Cabernets, then Bordeaux, until my heart and pocketbook both fell for Burgundy.

I’m reminded of the conversation I had with the owner of a well-known Bordeaux chateau who, when asked what his favourite wine was, responded, “oh, that depends on which wife I drank it with.” Your tastes will evolve.

If you’re wondering whether there’s a “proper” way to taste wine, yes, there is: open bottle, pour wine in glass, drink, repeat. If looking for a more technical approach, remember that your sense of smell accounts for as much as 85 per cent of your sense of taste.

While scientists report that the human tongue can taste only five elements, your nose can apparently smell up to 100,000. Therefore, when pouring wine, leave enough room in the glass to swirl the wine safely, releasing its aromas.

If you’ve just taken the wine out of the fridge, allow it to warm in glass, as cold wine will only partially reveal its aromas and flavours.

Breathe in through your nose as you taste the wine (this may take practice). I’ve been known to slurp air in while sipping the wine to further release aromas, but you may want to save this for your ramen outings or forgo altogether.

If you have trouble remembering wines you’ve enjoyed, take a photo of the bottle with your phone or consider downloading a wine app such as Delectable or Vivino. Also, don’t discount the advice of a trustworthy wine retailer.

Just like a good sommelier, a knowledgeable wine adviser should be able to direct you to great wines according to your palate, drinking timeframe and budget.

Remember also: as fun as it is to taste wines, do so in moderation, lest you find yourself once again drawn to the kebab van.


City A.M. Wine Club - Whether you’re an investor or an oenophile, joining City A.M.’s wine club can help you build your perfect cellar. Find out more here.

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