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5 easy tips to make you a better drinker!


Wear sandals, short pants, short sleeves, always have a glass in hand, and always drink with friends.  I kid, but that would be a pretty good set of tips don’t you think! Works for me. 
 
Back to reality, and with the arrival of Autumn we’re leaving the freedom of summer behind us. I don't know for sure, but I think there is something deeply ingrained in our psyche that makes this moment in time one where we refocus ourselves. It is no doubt a vestigial response to the return to schooling we all experienced around this time. We might as well go with the flow and if our brain wants to study something, well it might as well be wine!
 
The thing is, by the time Thanksgiving rolls around we're already lollygagging, looking out the window and blowing spit balls at cute girls named Denise. If we want to make our study of wine stick, we've got to be at least a little serious. Not too serious of course because in that case this might become actual work and nobody wants more work. No, this is almost all for fun, and of course a little education. Education about the wines, sure, but more to the point it should be education about what we like and what we should be buying to increase the chances that we'll like the next bottle we buy, and the bottle after that, and the bottle after that. It's not hard, really it isn't and these 5 super easy tips will make it that much simpler.
 

Make a friend

You need friends in this game. It's just like any other sport, play with people better than you and you'll improve your performance. Everybody responds somewhat differently to almost every wine, so tasting periodically with a group of like minded wine lovers is a great way to broaden your vinous vocabulary while at the same time learning how other people interpret the same wines you are trying. I've learned so much from my wine tasting buddies, even though I don't like some of them I still look forward to tasting with them!
 
If you're not ready to sit down and drink with a bunch of boring wine geeks, please do yourself a favor and make a friend in the best wine shop in your area. You don't even have to buy much from him or her, at least in the beginning, but talking about wine, exchanging ideas about wine and learning about what's out there in the marketplace is the absolute first step in learning more about wine and your palate. 

Taste something new and different

One of the grand pitfalls of wine tasting is finding a wine you like and then burrowing deeply into that variety or region to the exclusion of all others. Look, I get it it, you like that wine more than all the other wines you've tried. The thing is, there are all those other wines you haven't tried, and you'll never know what you think about those wines until you try them.
 
Drinking California Cabernet will someday get boring, no matter how great the California Cabernets you're drinking are. Be prepared for that day by knowing what other wines you like. Not only will you be able to easily switch things up for a change, which may actually prevent that day of getting bored with one of your favorite wines from coming, but there are so many lesser known wines out there that offer incredible value, so you'll probably even end up saving some money!

Stop being so absolute

This is a fluid world, no pun intend though that was in fact a pretty good pun. Not only do wines change from year to year, or region to region, i.e. not all Napa Cabernets are the same so don't get stuck on loving Napa Cabernets, but your palate also is going to change.
 
Here's the deal,  your palate will go through a rough evolution, or not. But if it's anything like my palate and those of many of my friends you're first attracted to rather simple, easy to understand and easy to drink wines. Then you go through a power phase where bigger is in fact better. That in turn leads to a palate fatigue phase where you search for wines that offer more complexity and depth yet retain the drinkability of the first wines you enjoyed, and in the end you find yourself liking a broad range of wines, understanding that each has its moment, but you certainly become comfortable with the idea that price and quality are not so closely related and drinkability ultimately beats out intensity when it come to simply enjoying wine.

Buy a better glass

It's true. While I am no glass-aholic, you know the type, the perfect glass for every wine in their cupboard, I do believe that a good glass can enhance the enjoyment of just about any wine. It's about giving the wine some room, some space to breath, some space to capture aromas, which you smell and taste while drinking the wine. It's also about how the wine looks. Wine hits all of our senses so there's no point in not making the most of each. 
 
You don't have to go crazy buying glasses. There are plenty of great options out there for about $10 a stem or less. What you want is a bowl that is at least 10 ounces, with a thin edged lip. I prefer a burgundy bowl, the tulip shaped one, but an all-purpose bowl is probably the best choice if you're only buying one style of wine glass. One key to a well designed wine glass bowl is that it is narrower at the top than in the middle, which helps keeps the wine in the glass while you're swirling it, which in turn helps it to release all of its aromas. The glass pictured, a Stolzle Classic 22 oz red wine glass,  is under $5 a stem and a great all-purpose wine glass to start with.

Document

Look, you're not taking notes to help save the world, you're taking notes to learn about your palate so you can buy wines that you like. That means documenting everything. Take a picture of every bottle of wine you drink and jot down a few notes, it doesn't have to be an essay. Simple, clear words can help you communicate your preference to your favorite sales person while helping you remember why you liked a particular wine.
 
For example, if you wrote that you liked the spiciness of several wines, and I realized that each of those wines was noticeable oaked I could infer that you enjoy oaked wines. If you wrote that you enjoyed a set of wines that was tart, well I would be trying to sell you wines with higher than average acidity. If you liked both, well then let me show you our selection of modern Barberas! It really is that simple. Combine a devotion to documentation with everything else we've discussed here and I guarantee you'll be better a drink by year's end!
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Comments

  • Snooth User: cma238
    1295124 118

    Great article. After going through all the "phases" as described, do you still find yourself falling in obsessed-love with grapes or regions (the equivalent of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. spouses) in particular? Or is love different the second time around?

    Sep 18, 2013 at 1:42 PM


  • Snooth User: Martze
    1309158 2

    Yes, the wine, but don't ever underestimate the time, place/setting, friends, season (clear, crisp autumn day...leaves turning color)...color/hue of the wine, the glass with a proper length stem-just for you-, the sloshing wrist action, the couch outside with the crackling fire as the sun sets in peachy tones.... That wine, that night with the bride of your youth....you WILL remember!

    Sep 18, 2013 at 3:24 PM


  • Snooth User: cma238
    1295124 118

    So well put!

    Sep 18, 2013 at 4:52 PM


  • Snooth User: sahlsmith
    1348156 40

    I enjoy making a game out of most anything. It comes from the game my Samoyeds taught me, you know, throw the ball, run to the ball, sit and wait for me to come pickup the ball and throw it back to where we started. The purpose of this game is two-fold: let the dogs think they're in control and work-up a powerful thirst for wine. A wine game I enjoy with two-legged friends is to buy three wines of the same grape variety and pour them into three identical decanters labeled A, B and C. One wine is usually fairly pricey, one is around $20USD and the third is a box or Terra-pak wine. Inevitably the box or Terra-pak wine is the favorite. It's a fun game and makes wine approachable by removing the aurora of snobbery.

    Sep 18, 2013 at 11:57 PM


  • Snooth User: Timothy R
    444500 3

    I would add one other step: ALWAYS decant reds. No matter how inexpensive, decant. In fact, often, I've found that less expensive reds are even more drastically improved by decanting than their more expensive, refined brothers and sisters. Like the wisdom shared above about the glass, the decanter need not be anything more than an ordinary sort, rounded out and full at the bottom with plenty of room for the wine to breathe... don't pour the entire bottle into the decanter if it exceeds the room for lots of contact with the air, and allow time, even an hour or so is not too much. But just the act of pouring into the decanter gives the wine contact with air, and improves bouquet and pleasures of the palate tremendously.

    Sep 19, 2013 at 12:30 AM


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