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I have been enjoying wine for quite a number of years, though I have never really taken the process of learning wine and distinguishing different tastes too seriously. That is something I would like to begin and my reason for joining here. If anyone is willing to help direct a beginner please point me in the right direction. My initial goal would be to learn more about developing my palate. Is that something that I can do at home?
Thank you in advance to anyone who can help.
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You can do it at home, but it is more fun with a bunch of other folks.
There is a good book by the wine critics at the NY Times. A good way to get into this hobby is to find a local wine shop with folks you trust and most have tastings these days.
Taste, taste and taste.
don't by a case of anything.
Good luck.
Originally posted by irwin:
You can do it at home, but it is more fun with a bunch of other folks.
There is a good book by the wine critics at the NY Times. A good way to get into this hobby is to find a local wine shop with folks you trust and most have tastings these days.
Taste, taste and taste.
don't by a case of anything.
Good luck.

Excellent advice.

Your LWS(local wine shop) might provide you info on any local group that might be getting together to taste. Join in if you can. If you live near a larger city, there will will be many options for formal tastings, but there's nothing like an intimate local group to develop closer friendship and tastng "buddies".
There are two books I always recommend--"Wine for Dummies", and Hugh Johnson/Jancis Robinson's "World Atlas of Wine", which help to provide a solid foundation. Read/taste/read/taste/read/taste....
And of course, participate in these forums (don't mind the occasional snarkiness--it's all in fun), there are a lot of great people and great info around here.
New2wineguy - good advice above.

I'd change it a little bit though.

I'd just say taste.

Read later.

Did you read before you tried chocolate cake? Or pizza? Or egg rolls?

You just came to those and figured out what you liked. Don't over-complicate wine. It's not any different from those other things.

You can try to pick out different things like pomegranate, sous bois, torrefaction, graphite and Meyer lemon, and you can turn yourself into one of those tedious people who basically bullshit about what they're tasting.

Don't do that.

And one more thing.

The posts above said to taste, taste, taste.

Don't limit that to wine. When you taste your coffee in the morning, do you just chug it down? When you eat your steak, do you just galp it down like a dog? When you have a piece of chocolate or a handful of nuts, do you just eat and swallow and move on?

If so, you're missing out on life itself. Take some time to savor what it is you're eating and drinking. I'm always skeptical about people who eat things like Pringles, MacDonald's burgers, Oreo cookies and diet Coke and then pose as discerning wine tasters. Really? They can't tell that they're eating and drinking crap all day but somehow they discern nuances and ethereal qualities in their wine?


In fact you learn about wine like you learn about many things - by paying attention. And if you're going to pay attention, then pay attention. Do it with everything you put into your mouth.

If you pay attention and you put an Oreo in your mouth, you note that there's no chocolate at all involved, that there's a dusty, flavorless, bitterness to the "cookie" part and a fatty, waxy coating on the roof of your mouth from the lard/grease in the filling, that there's a painfully nauseating sugar overload from the corn syrup sweetener, that there's some undefined chemical refinery note overlaid on the entire experience, and that you have an overwhelming desire to puke. You will never eat another one.

Reading gives you words you can BS with. Paying attention gives you understanding. I would never be able to tell one wine from another because of anything I'd read. I can only do that because I've paid attention.

Read later. Unfortunately, wine has become political these days and reading will most likely lead you down some partisan road or another. Don't do that to yourself. Keep your innocence and just learn about wine the way you should - by tasting it.

And yes, you can do it at home. You can do it alone. You can do it on the phone.

Dr Seuss aside, however, as they said above, it's a lot more fun to drink wine with other people. That doesn't mean you have to sit there and write tasting notes, it just means you have to take a few moments to think about what you're tasting.

Making notes for yourself is in fact a good way to remember things. The problem is that everyone ends up trying to be another Robert Parker and they condition themselves to reflexively write about every drop of wine that touches their lips. Don't do that and don't worry about picking up this or that flavor. If you're going to write a note to help your memory, just jot down something that is meaningful to you alone. That's easier done at home alone than with other people around. When I'm with people and we're just having dinner and wine, it's not about writing notes, it's about enjoying the moment.

Best of luck!
Last edited by gregt
I agree tasting is of first importance, and paying attention to what you taste (not just wine, but everything) is essential. But I respectfully disagree that reading is unnecessary, or even detrimental. I'm not talking about specific tasting notes--it is certainly best to form your own opinions, but it really helps to read a little, so you can figure out your way around your local wine shop to know a little about what you are buying. If you just grab three random bottles of "Bordeaux" in the $15 range, take them home and pop them open without understanding where they fit in the context of the region, you might come to the tragic conclusion that you don't like Bordeaux, or French wine in general. Ditto for almost all wine regions in the world. A few basic books can really open your eyes to what's out there and give you a compass to navigate the wine world, or at least your local wine shops, on your own terms.

I hope you enjoy your exploration.
Why oh why is everyone fawning at the "wisdom" of GregT? He's the guy that, above, asserts someone who eats crappy junk food can't be a discerning wine taster! Give me a break. I think some are equating the length of a post to its quality. Sure, there are some good points, but let's not drool too much, people!
Hardly fawning. Simply acknowledging encouragement. Were we all born with refined palates? I think not. Were we convinced that Burgundy, Bordeaux, or big Napa cabs became our favorite "go to's" through osmosis? I think not. Tasting, whether it's Wine, Foie Gras, Earl Grey, hell... Mushrooms or Radicchio, is the only way to determine whether one substance, texture, flavor, aroma, etc. is something we want again. And again. And again.

Or not.
I agree with most of GregT's input and I think that we do get the message.

The original question sounds very educational and a lot of people here appear to implicitly trying to explain that to you, more or less that analysing what you eat and drink is important and I would add that it comes more natural if you are naturally curious too. First you need to find out about your preferences, but always keep in mind that we normally tend to change our opinions along the way when trying new things and keeping an open mind to your taste and nose.

However, there are a few wits to getting there faster and appreciate wine more I think:

- when opening a younger bottle, remember to decant it a few hours, but follow the wine in there.

- Always pay attention to temperatures; reds are normally best at 17-18 degrees Celsius (sorry, I am european), whites 10-12. Put your wines into the cooler half an hour before the tasting, but make sure to cover it from anything in there like aggressive tomatoes that affects everything

- Buy really good glasses. I recommend Zalto from Austria which really impressed me and improved my experiences with my best wines. Glasses should have a closing shape so you capture the scents

- It is a matter of preference of course, but try to avoid wines made with too much new oak (unless you want to explore different oak varieties and toast methods) to start with and try really good producers from the classic districts e.g. Burgundy, Barolo, Brunello, Rhône dale, etc to begin with. Then you learn how different wine can taste and in addition, the originality of different areas even growing the same grapes or varieties (clones) in the world is obvious to you and appreciated

- Start by sniffing the wine a few minutes before even tasting; our nose is too easily affected by what we taste. Compare scents to spices in your kitchen, just to put a name on things when writing notes. Like GregT said, it is not about finding all the details, but to capture and remember your experience

- Also notice that some wines are very aromatic on their own, but some wines really requires their food pairings too

- Discuss with others and participate in public tastings; you learn a lot, trust me

- Always remember that the producer is much more important than Parker points and general vintage charts. Don't buy wines with high scores without tasting them your selves

- Learn the basics about terroir, e.g. the importance of exposition to build sugars and aromas, that fresh acidity needs cool winds during nights, soil varieties, etc. This the educational part and there are many good books out there

- When you find a producer that you really like, book a visit and travel there if you can. Ask to visit the vineyards and learn their philosophy and micro climate. It is very rewarding to get a personal relation with your favourites wines

- I am not selling wines and earn no money from this business; however my tip is to get the first kick (still on a budget; extremely price-worthy examples) by e.g. buying 2008 Montefico/Rabaja/Asili Produttore di Barbaresco ($50), Cerbaiona Rosso di Monalcino 2006 (this is actually a brunello, $30), Salicutti Brunello di Montalcino "tre vine" 2009, Ata Rangi from New Zeeland ($40), Chablis Févre Les Clos 2008/2010 ($70), to mention a few. Remember to decante for > 3 hrs. :-)

I sure hope that you got some help here and keep digging into the sensation and magic of wines.
Last edited by ultimatewinekick
PH - you are completely right. I was not talking about someone rating some wine 93 and someone else 74 or something of that nature. My point was simply that if one pays attention, one takes note of what one puts in one's mouth.

Industrial products manufactured in factories?

Nobody on this board is in the position of starving and having to eat whatever scraps they can find like some medieval wretch. We're very fortunate in that respect.

What a shame it is to forgo all the bounty that we have and instead consume factory-made products that substitute for food. You are of course right regarding the judgement call - we can all make our own.

The people who fabricate those food-like products are no fools. They know that humans are hard-wired to appreciate fats and sugars. So that's what they deliver. If you talk to those designers, they will readily admit that the products are not made for reflection or consideration - they're made for mindless consumption.

The people who produce wines like Apothic, Cupcake, etc., are targeting the same audience. There is obviously a huge market for those things and to be sure, people are quite free to enjoy whatever blows their hair back.

But the OP asked how to be a better taster. I said to pay attention to what he consumes. I stand by that.

Wine is something we consume. If someone is unable to distinguish factory-fabricated products from something a little bit closer to a farm, that speaks for itself. But by paying attention, one can learn. One develops his "wine palate" by developing his palate period. Among other things, one learns to tell when something is fresh, when it is spoiled, and it cannot possibly spoil.

I was not and am not looking for an argument. Just answering the OP's question. Cheers!
Originally posted by irwin:
Originally posted by PurpleHaze:
BRR is being a little cranky, but he does have a point. Once we get into the world of making judgements about what "tastes good and doesn't" for other people, it is a slippery slope. À chacun son gout.


French from my buddy PH? Wow.

Perhaps polishing his Français for an upcoming Montreal trip?
No trip to Montreal for me in the near future, alas. The June offline(s) with DoktaP and w+a attending are very tempting, but work is solidly in the way. I do have a couple of troublemaking Montrealers inbound soon! Cool

GregT. I agree with you for the most part.

That said, I was at the market a few days back having some meat ground for burgers that night. My eldest granddaughter (9) was with me, and asked if we could get a "treat" for after dinner. We wandered the bakery section, and her eye wandered over to the Tastykake display off to the side of the "freshly" baked goods. I told her she could get whatever she wanted, hinting strongly at the lovely fruit tart in the display. She picked out a box of Chocolate Kandykakes (used to be Tandycakes if I recall) and off we went.

I joined her in having a packet after dinner, and was pleasantly jolted into my past. Tastykakes were a rare but well loved treat in my youth. These must have been fresh out of the whatever they make them in. Spongy chocolate cake, a dollop of marshmallow cream and a crunchy thin chocolate coating. Tasted fantastic! I'm sure a review of the ingredient listing would have tempered my enjoyment, so I passed on that exercise.

Went into a sugar coma shortly thereafter, and passed out on the sofa.

I don't even know what Tastycakes are but well, kids were involved. If you were with your granddaughter, that gives you a pass. I was at the barber the other day and his granddaughter insisted that he share her lolipop. It tasted so good that she wanted to share it with him. At least you got your own! Imagine if you had to share with the kids and the dog. YUM!
Sure, I was being a little bit cranky. So, I went back and re-read GregT's post...and it made me cranky again. I can't stand it when someone thinks so highly of himself and everyone else is a moron, unless they approach wine (and food, apparently) his way.

"You can try to pick out different things like of those tedious people...basically bull$hit about what they're tasting..." What kind of load of garbage is that? I like to try and find specific flavors in a wine, both on the palate and in the nose. According to Lord GregT, however, anyone who does that is tedious and full of $hit.

"I'm always skeptical...[crap food]...and then pose as discerning wine tasters..." Really? Seriously, really?

"[Pay attention] to every thing you put in your mouth." I am certainly in favor of savoring bites of the best food but, I'm pretty sure there were a few bites of my turkey and provolone sandwich that went down without a second thought at yesterday's lunch.

"Put and oreo in your will never eat another one." Please. Get off your high horse.


I will agree, however, with the taste, taste, taste approach. But, leave it at that. Ask yourself one question: do you like it? If so, buy and drink more of that wine. If not, don't. Try many different types and styles. I also think that, since the OP has been drinking wine for quite awhile, reading is a great next step, along with trying new styles of wine at the same time. That can teach you a lot. It was certainly helpful to me in my wine "education."
Yeah I guess you're right. I guess I'll mix up some lard and shortening and confectioner's sugar and chow down on that. Or nowadays I guess it's just the shortening as lard is too expensive.

Then when my mouth is coated with shortening and puke, I'll write some tasting notes on a wine and talk about the minerality and nuance I discern because, well, wine is different from everything else in the whole world.

We become better wine tasters by ignoring most of what we eat?

Sure. People who can't or won't notice anything else become discerning and wise when it comes to wine.

I get it. I was wrong.

What the hell do I know anyway? I was responding to someone who asked about improving his palate. I said to pay attention. Silly me.

Apothic outsells pretty much any other wine these days, so that's good enough for him. Why drink some snotty high-horse wine? Don't pay attention to anything. Factory-produced crap is just fine thank you.

Sorry OP.

Don't pay attention to anything. You improve your palate by writing tasting notes. Get a thesaurus and you're good.
Last edited by gregt

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