5 Tips for Novice Winos
By the time you hit your late 20s you're one of two kinds of drinkers: You're downing expensive cocktails at bars and clubs, or you're a young professional looking to cultivate your growing reputation at a hip social gathering. One professor liked to call them wine and cheese parties, to which a fellow classmate at the time responded, "More like beer and Cheez-Wiz!" Nearly 10 years later, my friends and I have hit the era of moving onto the real cheese and the beverages to go along with it. Here are some tips for transitioning into the wine scene, one glass at a time.
1. Discover Labrusca Wines
I just broke a major wine snob rule, but the truth is there is a world of difference between being handed a glass of something you're told is wonderful and actually finding wine you like to drink. Most new wine drinkers have no idea, for instance, that there is more to drink than the traditional dry, oaked vinifera you're expected to enjoy. If you're tired of college cocktails and boring beers, but turned off or downright intimidated by the thought of a dry oaked Cab Sav or buttery Chardonnay, try American wines. DiMatteo Vineyards in Hammonton, New Jersey, offers an award-winning gorgeous blend of Concord and Ives called Pasquale Red that makes for a great red table wine.
2. Go to Smaller Wine Festivals
New Jersey is loaded with great ways to spend a weekend afternoon, regional wine festivals being one of them. Our first wine fest was Six Flags Grape Adventure. About 12 wineries were set up around the amusement park (after the rides closed) giving us a chance to sample some of the best of Jersey. An added bonus with Grape Adventure was the Safari ride. Tasters piled onto a bus that rode out into the animal safari where you could sample even more wine while feeding the giraffes. (You may have held carrots in one hand, but they also took an interest in the wine glass in your other. One giraffe actually took a nose-dive into a woman's glass while she stood for a picture. Don't worry; the glass was empty.)
Word of advice: The more intimate the fest, the better. That being said, it is best to approach all wine festivals in one of two ways. Either limit the number of tables you hit, or limit the number of wine varietals you taste. If you jump in the pool you risk burning your taste buds and leaving with some really tainted opinions spurred on by flavor overload.
3. Taste with Friends
Don't drink alone. It's boring. Sure, there are a world of critics out there who drink wine alone all the time, but at least they're being paid for it (and spitting out most of what they taste - because they're working). Wine, from the making to the drinking, is about people. Whether you're looking for a fun time with friends or a great way to learn more about your date, wine tasting offers the perfect platform for good conversation.
4. Bring Your Brain
Drinking wine is about tuning in. While it doesn't have to be a particularly intellectual experience, it isn't an exercise in getting blitzed. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't an exercise in snobbery, either. Wine is as much about what went into making it as it is about the experience made by drinking it. It is also a great ice-breaker at parties. Everyone will want to know who you are when you hang by the wines and can accurately explain the difference between a Tempranillo and a Pinot Noir.
5. Do Some Reading
You found some wines you like and you want to know more. So, do your research! Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl's book Drink This Wine Made Simple is a great primer for beginners and an excellent resource for anyone looking to know the basics of the wine world and vinifera grapes. Described as "refreshingly simple, irreverent, and witty," this book is also incredibly accessible to the novice wine drinker and has become a go-to resource on my bookshelf.
Above all, drink what you like and have fun doing it! And as far as giving up that beer and cheez-wiz... growing up never tasted so good.