Taking your wine knowledge to the next level
I'm often asked how someone can learn more about wine. My knowledge has come from reading about the topic, always choosing a different bottle of wine with each purchase, and going to wine tastings. Wine tastings are a hands-on approach to learning about wine. Most of the time, the person pouring the wine is very knowledgeable because they represent the wine in Colorado. They may even import the wine into the United States, which means that they visit the winery or estate frequently. Many importers live in Colorado and are very active in promoting their wines.
Not all wine tastings are created equal. I find the intimate tastings where I can ask questions to be the best situation for learning. This often means a smaller crowd, smaller venue, and less wine labels being poured. Tastings with hundreds of participants are a lot of fun, but the opportunity to learn is difficult because of the overcrowding. However, some large tastings are well planned, un-congested, and offer a great opportunity to taste many wines and talk to the people that promote them in our state. Attending a large event can be a great learning experience as long as the organizer hasn't overbooked the space and has made sure there are enough vendors to handle the crowd.
Winemaker's dinners are another way to learn with the opportunity to talk with the person who created the wine. Although the price for dinner can be double or triple the price of a tasting event, consider that you have an opportunity to talk to someone intimate with the production of the wine and you learn about the wine and growing region while enjoying a gourmet meal specifically paired with the featured wines. The cost for a winemaker's dinner usually costs much less than what you would pay if you came in for dinner and ordered off the menu and wine list on another evening.
Reading about wine is another way to boost your knowledge. There are many web sites and books that are well written and offer a rudimentary view of the topic. One of my favorite web sites is www.epicurious.com. Follow the drinking tab at the top to the wine dictionary at the bottom of the next page. From there, you can navigate the topic of wine by looking up terms at whatever level of detail you desire.
There are many books on the market that offer a foundation on wine. Tara Q. Thomas' The Complete Idiots Guide To Wine Basics or Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan's Wine For Dummies are great books for gaining practical knowledge. They also serve as a reference book that you'll pick up over and over again.
One other technique I've used is to focus on one country and learn about it with each purchase. The first country I focused on was Italy. Although Italy is a huge undertaking, researching a single growing region and then making a purchase or two from that area helped me to understand and remember those wines. This approach to learning is improved by a knowledgeable wine shop employee who can make quality recommendations within your budget. Remember, all major growing areas have value priced wines, so every region has possibilities in any budget.
Each person has different reasons for wanting to learn more about wine. Whether you're preparing for a trip to wine country, beginning a wine cellar, or just wanting to navigate a wine list with confidence, studying wine is an enjoyable endeavor. With a little effort anyone one interested in learning more can become better versed in the topic of wine.
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