How to Be a Better Wine Lover

5 things you should do this year


The more involved I become in the world of wine, the more I come to realize both how little I know and how much there is to learn. I want to be a better wine lover!

There are a few things that we can all do to expand our vision of the wine world. Things that are easy and yet from which we will be able to reap ample rewards. Move outside your comfort zone, take a risk and check out wines you think you hate. Push yourself and share the experiences!

These things can make each of us better versed in wine, but to a greater point, they can raise the level of communal wine knowledge which we share. This knowledge base, if shared, would help us all make better informed decisions about what we buy, when to drink what we buy, and how to advise all the people who ask for help. So listen up to the five things you should do this year.

Photo courtesy ForestMind via Flickr/CC

1. Join the Wine Century Club

Why? I am generally not a club joiner, so telling you to join one comes as a bit of a stretch for me. Regardless, the Wine Century Club is one club worth joining.

The premise is simple, taste 100 varietals to join. 100 varietals may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t, and while variety isn’t for everyone, it is one of the most fascinating pieces of the wine puzzle. One of the reasons we obsess about wine is simply because there is so much to obsess about. Find out what the funky varietals are and which might turn you on. You might be surprised at what you find. Be sure to keep notes so you can add to your own knowledge base. Which brings me to…

2. Share Your Tasting Notes

This is self-serving, but so what? I’m a proponent of saving one’s notes for several reasons and that’s why Snooth works the way it does, but that does not obviate the point here.

By sharing your tasting notes, you not only save the information for yourself, but also share your impressions with other like-minded folks, allowing them to get a better idea of what a wine is like before buying or drinking it. Perhaps you might even find drinking buddies along the way!

By recording what you like about a wine and then comparing one note to others you’ve written, you can begin to see patterns emerge- patterns that can help guide you towards other wines that you probably will enjoy. It’s also fascinating and revealing to watch your palate evolve!

Photo courtesy ghirson via Flickr/CC

3. Taste a Bottle of $35 Wine

Some wines are simply more expensive than others. I’m not here to tell you that more expensive wines are better, because that is patently not the case, but at certain price points, both the average quality and style of wines do change. If you’re used to buying $20 wines, you should splurge and try something around the $35 mark once in a blue moon just to see what the additional money buys.

Conversely, if you’re routinely buying $50 bottles of wine, taking a flyer on the occasional $20 bottle should be part of your routine. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results. Less expensive wines are generally fruitier, less oaky and ready to drink on release. To my palate, they are also often easier to pair with food.

Please remember that these are not rules. I’m suggesting you try these wines so that you can make up your own mind about these things, but these are certainly my impressions.

Photo courtesy paqman via Flickr/CC

4. Taste a Bottle of Aged Wine

Mature wine does not have to be super expensive. In fact, you can find plenty of worthy examples right around the $35 mark.

Some grapes age more quickly than others, like Barbera for example. Though these wines often just drift away, at their best they take on the character of aged Piedmontese wines after about a decade.

Zinfandel is another inexpensive wine that ages surprisingly well. It turns into a somewhat anonymous aged red wine more than anything else, but will give you a good idea of what happens to fruit and structure in the bottle over time. That’s all we want to get at here. Learning what happens to wine in the cellar can help you figure out when to drink the wines that are actually in your cellar!

Photo courtesy fonticulus via Flickr/CC

5. Taste Some Natural Wine

Natural wine is a construct, a name that people have used to help define their approaches to wine. The problem is that there is no official definition of what makes natural wine natural, so natural wine advocates tend to bash one another to promote their definition.

This is sad because the idea of natural wine in almost all of its guises is a good one. We owe it to ourselves to become familiar with these wines- not what they are (let the geeks hash that out), but what they taste like.

The wine that used to be an accident has today become a scientific/industrial product. Somewhere in between lies some ideal. That ideal may or may not be to your liking, but you should really investigate what’s going on. For example, the use of indigenous yeasts is increasingly in vogue. I love the way these naturally fermented wines express themselves, more complexity, less fruit and a different texture all await you!

Photo courtesy via Flickr/CC

Want to Learn More?

Check out our thoughts on wine philanthropy in How to Start a Wine Collection!

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Mentioned in this article


  • One of the few headlines, ever, which would have been more appealing with the absence of the word "wine"...

    Feb 15, 2012 at 10:54 AM

  • Snooth User: Pansyford
    987539 35

    This is great! Here are 5 more suggestions on how to be a better wine lover (this may include things some people do regularly but are likely new ideas for others)
    1. Visit a near (or far away) wine region and taste wines in the area that they were made in
    2. Do a blind tasting with your friends to learn more about what kinds of wine you like and see if you can identify what kind of wine each one is
    3. Prepare a dish (or buy one) and try it with two or more very different wines to learn more about what makes a good wine pairing
    4. Open a decent bottle of red and try some each night for 4 nights. Note how the wine changes over the course of time after opening
    5. Pick a varietal that you like and try wines made with that grape from different regions of the world (cab from california, chile, australia and bordeaux for example)

    This is so fun! Looking forward to reading what other ideas wine lovers have!
    Best, Molly

    Feb 15, 2012 at 2:41 PM

  • Snooth User: LMuir
    860340 0

    Thanks for this article. I recently became a wine collector. However, my collection does not date as far back as the 1980s. ( tooyoung to drink then). I appreciate your inspiration. Any further tips for wine collection purchases when next I visit South Italy and South France would be extremely valuable.

    Feb 16, 2012 at 11:50 AM

  • Snooth User: jsncruz
    1001336 68

    @ Pansyford
    "4. Open a decent bottle of red and try some each night for 4 nights. Note how the wine changes over the course of time after opening"
    I've tried this, and I know I shouldn't be surprised, but the changes were actually quite obvious. The wine I opened was a bottle of Fortant de France by Skalli (cab, '09) and on the second day, the fruitiness was a bit dulled, and I could smell the alcohol a little more. On day 3, it tasted like a generic for-cooking-red-wine. Well, perhaps I didn't store it well? It has a screw cap and I placed it in the fridge.

    Feb 17, 2012 at 1:34 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748


    Those are great recommendations. I might have to write and article around them! Molly's 5 more things to do to be a better lover!

    Feb 20, 2012 at 1:20 PM

  • When I wrote my book about the 571 most common grape varieties I had to taste varietal wines en masse - and now I have found another 10 from the Valais valley in Switzerland and some in the Leth vineyard in Wagram in Austria. It is an exciting world!

    Feb 24, 2012 at 1:45 PM

  • Snooth User: gerrad
    79282 57

    not sure id bother wasting a decent bottle by not drinking it in 4hrs let alone 4 days..but i see your point. keeping open wines in the fridge is the best way to 'keep' them if u must. alternatively, i could just save you all the time and suggest that for the most part decent red wines (read; somewhat aged and pricey) do not respond to 'a couple of days open' as well as some younger more 'robust' wines might do (read; young and tannic as hell). [its because of the greater colour, tannin and redox ability of young wines-mostly] essentially, if you dont finish a $10 bottle, no foul -it may even be better by tomorrow-, but a $30+ wine...should be drunk completely -now! i dont really see the point in recognising the various degraded states that wine acheives over time..except for one; knowing how long the bottle-of-wine-you-just-bought-by-the-glass, in a bar somewhere, has been open! i always ask the staff..' what bottles of which wine were opened today'. all good suggestions otherwise, although there may be some confusion over varieties and varietals- they arent the same thing.

    Mar 12, 2012 at 5:05 PM

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