Enjoying wine can be about all those experiences. It depends on what interests you.
Contrary to popular belief, the most important factor to enjoying wine is not the ability to memorize the 5,000 grape varieties from which wine is made or the thousands of regions where it is produced. The key is knowing what you like. This may sound obvious, but when it comes to wine, it can be a challenge.
Most people will know instinctively that they love this or that food. However, when it comes to wine, many aren’t quite sure what they like or why or, if they do know, they have trouble putting it into words.
Do you tend to enjoy wine with food or on its own? Are you interested in wines that are ready to drink now or are you looking to experience the joys and rewards of cellaring wine? Are you most thrilled by finding an affordable hidden gem or a highly-awarded cult wine? Being more aware of what makes you tick as you explore the world of wine can be helpful as it can provide a bit of focus without spoiling the fun.
Similarly, becoming familiar with what is in your wine wheelhouse (and what isn’t) can be quite useful to maximizing your enjoyment, especially when discovering wine. Do you tend to enjoy crisp whites with refreshing acidity like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio from Northern Italy or rich, buttery Chardonnays from California?
If reds are more your thing, do you tend to reach for big bold reds like Malbec from Argentina or do you favour elegant Pinot Noir from Burgundy?
This is not to say that preferences don’t evolve over time but from a practical point of view, knowing what wine you might enjoy in a given situation is quite useful — from ordering in restaurants to choosing wines for a celebration.
The preface of one of the first wine books I ever purchased included the saying: “pleasure is increased tenfold by knowledge”. I always liked that statement because it puts wine knowledge squarely at the service of enjoyment. Knowing what you like, trusting your palate is 98 per cent of the enjoyment wine. The other two per cent, the wine knowledge part, is about understanding why you like what you like and being able to choose wines that you are likely to enjoy and avoid wines that probably won’t do it for you based on your preferences.
In and of itself, knowing that many of the white wines of the region of Bordeaux in France are made with Sauvignon Blanc grapes is not that useful. On the other hand, being able to recommend such a wine to a friend that enjoys New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but who is looking for something a little different yet in the same crisp refreshing style, now that is interesting.
Don’t be intimated by wine. In the end, it’s only fermented grape juice.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is absolutely nothing wrong about admitting to not knowing much about wine – that is usually how the learning process starts. Conversely there is nothing intrinsically special about knowing about wine. It is an area of expertise like any other that needs to be demystified. Wine and hospitality industry professionals such as sommeliers, servers and salespersons are there to help you find the wines that will best suit your preferences and occasions. It’s about you and your enjoyment.
The aim of this new, monthly wine column will be to provide information, tips and tools to help readers enjoy, explore and get the most out of wine on their own terms. It will endeavour to provide suggestions of interesting wine styles, regions and grape varieties to explore.
Jean-Sébastien Morin is a category manager with P.E.I. Liquor. He is an accredited sommelier, wine writer, educator and wine judge. His love of wine was born in the late 1980s, while studying and working in Europe. Inspired Grapes aims to transmit Morin’s passion for wine while never forgetting that the pleasure of a glass of wine often resides in the moment and the company in which it is shared. To reach, Morin email email@example.com.
Jacob's Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir Sparkling Non-Vintage
A surprisingly balanced and elegant sparkling wine for the price. Produced with the same grape varieties that are used in the region of Champagne in France. Flavours of citrus and pear are framed by lively acidity and bolstered by a creamy mouth feel and pleasant effervescence. Great with most of hors-d’oeuvres, from chicken in cream sauce wrapped in puff pastry to spicy shrimp kebabs.
Bodega Norton Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
A great example of warm climate Sauvignon Blanc. The refreshing acidity is complemented by flavours of Meyer lemon and tropical notes of mango and pineapple. A very versatile white. Perfect for sipping on the deck, great with salads and grilled chicken.
Stemmari Nero d’Avola 2013
This red from Southern Italy is all about dark and brooding flavours: blueberries; black cherries; cocoa and hints of dried herbs and leather. It is medium-bodied with very good concentration and velvety tannins. Great with thin-crust gourmet pizza especially with figs, prosciutto and Gorgonzola cheese.