Whether your wine choices are motivated by habit, price, a favorite wine grape or a wine grape growing region, this article will help you move forward from your current wine tastes by expanding your palate – just a bit.
One of my staff writers, Rusty Sly, holds a monthly tasting and brief lesson at Valencia Wine Company called Grape of the Night. The idea was prompted by a similar monthly event he used to attend in Florida years ago in which the group leader chose a single varietal, say a wine that is made from 85% to 100% from California Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, or Shiraz, or Chardonnay…and so on. Then each guest is prompted to bring a bottle of the selected varietal to share, taste and discuss. This is how you can do it yourself and what can be learned from a tasting like this:
- You can set a price limit, so that your new discovery is within your budget and so that each person is investing about the same amount.
- Though Rusty does a short lesson, and chooses the varietal, you don’t have to do it that way. You can ask your guests for their favorite varietals and then vote on it. Then ask them be prepared at the tasting to share a little about the wine they brought and what they know about the varietal in general.
- Once you only taste one kind of wine you can start to see subtle differences between terroir (a word that refers to the region a grape was grown in), winemaker style and that year’s particular climate. I prefer to take notes.
- When tasted side-by-side, and really focusing on what you taste, you will begin to appreciate the subtle differences between the wines – though they are all the same varietal. There is more pepper in some Zins than others and more lemon in some Sauvignon Blancs – now you’ll be able to find the flavors you’re really after.
- Tasting with others allows you the opportunity to hear different ideas, not just read what the winemaker wrote on the back of the label. (Keep in mind that tasting can be very subjective. So if you have someone like me at your tasting that says something like, “Wow, this 100% Pinot Noir tastes like crushed red cherries and their stems” you may get stuck with that image.)
- You will now be able to make better, more educated decisions about your wine selection next time.
- If you’ve been in a rut, with a wine club you’ve held onto for too long or just doing the “swallow”, having a tasting like this will definitely get you interested in getting your hands on new wineries that are making your favorite varietal.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column.