How does a young Kentucky girl go from disliking the taste of even the subtlest mixed drink to reviewing wine for glowbass.com?
Step 1: Get a job at a good Italian restaurant.
Step 2: Date a man who learned his love of wine in Italy.
Step 3: Marry that same man once he becomes a sales representative for a liquor distribution company with unlimited access to endless varietals and brands.
Okay, so maybe this fairy tale only happens for about 20% of us. I’m kidding, of course, but this is the way I learned to appreciate wine in its various forms. At the beginning though, I do remember wincing after tasting certain heavy Chardonnays and Merlots while praising the sweet “drinkability” of Lambrusco and Asti.
Wine is no different than coffee or beer in that it is an acquired taste. I had to start with the sweetest of the sweet–wines that many “aficionados” turned their noses at and judged me for drinking but by sticking with what I liked and branching out to an unknown Riesling or Pinot Grigio here and there, I eventually developed a taste for the entire gamut of white varietals and soon thereafter an even stronger thirst for reds such as Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The easiest way to learn wine if you don’t enjoy it is to take advantage of sampling offers at restaurants and find your starter wine. Generally, starter wines are sweeter like a White Zinfandel, fruit wine (think wine cooler or any fruit other than grape like blackberry or strawberry) or bubbly wines like Asti. From there, follow the restaurant wine lists which are usually ordered by sweetness and climb the ladder as you can. Use pairing notes on menus and server suggestions or if you’re doing this at home, follow this guide:
Asti & Moscato d’Asti (sparkling)
Port (I can’t drink these to this day because they are so syrupy but this is where they generally belong for sweetness)
Dessert wines/Ice wines
Zinfandel (red–we’ll cover the difference later)
Shiraz or Syrah
Extra dry (sparkling)
This is by no means a complete list, rather a guide to some of the most popular and widely available wine varietals out there. If you come upon an unknown wine, ask the server or store clerk what it most closely resembles and they should be able to refer to one of these. For example, a wine that grows well in my home state of Kentucky is Norton which most closely resembles a Shiraz. Here’s a link of wine definitions: http://www.lctwinery.com/buywine.html