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Snooth User: michellewhite

A little frustrated and sick of wasting money...

Posted by michellewhite, Oct 16, 2011.


Edited 0 minutes ago


I have finally worked up the nerve to post my problem and see if I can get some help.

I have discovered the past couple of years, because my mother-in-law has a similar palate to mine, that I freaking love wine!  I have had several titillating experiences with wine and food thanks to her, but I can never seem to reproduce the experience on my own.

I don't understand all of the terminology to be able to properly explain exactly what I like and don't like, but I'll do my best and hope that someone is able to help.

I've been known to enjoy a Riesling or Moscato, but what really does it for me seems to be smooth and/or sweet reds.  I like it to have some body, but I don't like it dry.  

I know that some of what I have enjoyed with my mother-in-law are red blends and pinot noir, but when I buy one of these myself, I hate it.  Perhaps the problem is that she is able to spend much more on a bottle than I am?

I really appreciate any advice you wonderful people can give me!  Thanks so much for taking the time!



Reply by gibbo1, Oct 16, 2011.

What vintages are the red wines you are drinking? Blends are usually softer as are reds that are from 2008 or earlier

Reply by erniex, Oct 17, 2011.

Hi Michelle. I think all wine drinkers have been through, or still is in, the phase you describe. And there is basically only one way to get to the next level, which is - drink a lot of wine! Wines are so extremely diversified, and even if you could spend all the money in the world, you might not instantaneously hit that personal sweet spot anyway.

There is also the thing, that your palate will change over time. The more wine you drink, the more experienced you get detecting the finer nuances, and most probably you will slowly move from the very obvious pleasers to more demanding stuff. In fact, looking at my own journey in wine, many of the very high priced wines wont necessarily offer you the satisfaction the pricetag indicates if you dont have the proper insight and benchmarks to draw from. Even if you do they might not! You state that you definitely dont like a dry red, but prefer some sweetness to it. I bet you that will change over time! The sweet oaky easy going in your face reds are great indeed, but can also get very tiresome after a while, and you will look for something more refined, with more complexity, enjoy the well matured etc etc.

Luckily the wine world is HUGE, and there is so much to drink through, even if you dont feel like spending all your investments doing it. I would suggest you start buying, say, 5-10 bottles at the time of the same grape, the same appelation/AVA or whatever, and start compare. Or in other words, drink a lot, but do it somewhat systematically and you will soon find what rings your bell, also in the long run. Dont go buy cases of wine just yet.

Finally, keep it mind that other factors but the wine itself will have an impact. The weather, your mood, the food you drink it with and so on. Bottle variation too. drinking in the right context matters too.

Drink girl drink - but no more than half a bottle daily.-)


Reply by michellewhite, Oct 17, 2011.

I actually have no clue what vintage I've been drinking!  This is probably the missing link.

Thank you both so much!  I think I now have a starting point!

I have definitely noticed my tastes changing.  It's part of why I'm in this frustrating place.  The wines I used to drink aren't doing it for me anymore.  It's nice to know that this is normal!

I love the "drink girl drink"!  No worries there.  I'm on it!

Reply by ScottLauraH, Oct 17, 2011.

As Erniex pointed out, your palate is going to change and evolve the more wine you drink.  Don't worry how much money a bottle of wine costs.  A good wine is one you enjoy, not one that costs a certain amount of money. 

A good idea would be to start a little wine notebook.  Write down the name, vintage and varietal of the wines that you drink, and then write down your impressions of the wine.  It doesn't matter at all if you use "correct" wine terminology.  This notebook is to help you find what you like and then remember what it was!

I would suggest that you start with Pinot Noir, which tends to be a more fruit forward, light to medium bodied red wine.  Taste them from everywhere: Oregon, California, Burgundy, Washington, New Zealand, South Africa....

Also, find a wine shop with a friendly and knowledgable staff.  Describe for them some wines that you like and what you liked about them.  (Again, they will not care if you use wine terminology...they just want to help you find what you like.)  Using that information, they should be able to recommend wines in your price range that you will likely enjoy. 

Cheers!  Drinking and discovering wine is great fun!

Reply by JonDerry, Oct 17, 2011.

Hi Michelle,

Glad you got around to posting your question and have a direction now. I could be wrong, but as i'm reading this i'm thinking Spanish wine (from Rioja, Ribera del Duero) would be a good place for you to experiment. You can often get good quality for less than $20/bottle, sometimes even under or around $10. I don't find them overly dry either.

Reply by ScottLauraH, Oct 17, 2011.

JD, Spanish wines are a great place to start.  Great idea.  Wish I had thought of it myself!

In our store we carry Can Blau Cellars, which are red blends.  There is the "Blau" which is medium bodied and more fruit forward.  It retails around $12.  The next wine is "Can Blau" which has a little more aging on it and is more full bodied.  It retails around $16.  The grandfather of these wines is "Mas De Can Blau" which has the most aging of the three wines and is more full bodied.  I think these would be great wines for you to try, and from what I understand, they're pretty widely available. 

Reply by cgplayer9, Oct 17, 2011.

Some other light variatals you might try are Beaujolais, Barbera and Dolcetto. Two Baujolais that I have tried and highly recommend are Chateau de la Chaize and Joseph Drouhin Brouilly. Both of these wines from from the Brouilly cru of Beaujolais and run around $12-15. While they are dry red wines, they have such fine tannins and are so fruity that they taste sweet - very refreshing.

Reply by judgelog, Oct 17, 2011.

Yep, we have all been there. That is part of the fun - finding out what you like and don't! One thing you can do is go to wine tastings since you can get a wide variety of tastes without buying bottles. Some of the larger retailers will have free wine tastings on the weekends, which is a great way to get exposure to new varietals.

So a couple of things to try -  If you like softer reds, try a Montepulciano D'Abruzzo. For a nice white, try a Torrontes.

And as others have mentioned, don't worry about the price. One of joys of wine is finding a great inexpensive bottle.

One last thought - develop a relationship with your local wine merchant. Let them make recommendations, and be honest with them and tell them what you did and didn't like. A good retailer will be help you find those great wine experiences!

Reply by Balashazar, Oct 17, 2011.

I too have been on my journey in the world of wine.  I found originally that I preferred whites over reds, mostly due to the immediate fruitiness.  As I progressed through...uhm, multiple bottles of both white and red, my palate developed where I enjoy the mystery and discovery of the infinate flavors.

The very best thing I would like to offer up, and it was said many times above, is to visit a couple local(relatively atleast) wine stores.  Talk with the staff, find one where you feel good and comfortable talking with them about your journey.  The store I go to is a family owned and run business, with roots, contacts and friendships with different vinyard owners.  This is the key, atleast for me, in having a lot of fun.  Even for those wines I try and don't care for, the experience of trying them, and sharing the experience with my 'friends' at the store while searching for something new to try makes it all worth while

If you happen to be in Michigan, and West Michigan more specifically, I'd like to share with you the secret to my fantastic journey, John Russo and family.  Here u is a link to their Facebook page(hope this doesn't conflict with any posting rules).

I hope you continue to have fun and find lots of interesting wines.


Reply by michellewhite, Oct 18, 2011.

Thank you all so much!  I really appreciate all of the advice.  I can't wait to put it to the test!

Reply by napagirl68, Oct 20, 2011.

Hi Michelle!

I think it's wonderful that you are appreciating wine.  And I understand your frustration in reproducing an experience with a wine you have liked before.  While you might not be able to spend as much as your mother in law, getting the names, type of grape (varietal), and YEAR of the wines you've liked can be VERY helpful in wine shops recommending comparable wines within your price range.  Don't be shy to WRITE DOWN or ASK for info on a wine you like.  I do it all the time.. I keep a "wine bible" with me, as do most serious tasters.  You are building a database of sorts. 

Your exprerience is extremely common. Say one tastes a pinot noir at some dinner or event.   They do not write down the winery, blend, year.  They go to the grocery, thinking ANY pinot will reproduce the experience..  ABSOLUTELY NOT SO!   I will venture to say, that especially for a beginner, the varietal is less important than the quality.  You CAN get good quality for lower prices, you just have to be more experienced as it is a smaller population.

The number one way I suggest one to get experience is TASTING.  Where are you living?  If in California, I can personally give you a tasting schedule to allow you to experience certain wine varietals, in various areas (the same varietal, say, pinot noir, can vary WIDELY by both area and winery).  If you live in other areas, the best suggestion is to find a reputable wine shop in your area that offers tastings.  You need to taste, and you shouldn't have to spend a fortune to do so...  another option is to do tasting parties with friends and family.  It sounds like you already like some of the wines your mother in law does... perhaps ask her to plan a party, and offer to put in some funds.  Then TAKE NOTES!!

Reply by joebernardinoATyahoo, Oct 21, 2011.

Try Australian Shiraz and other reds, and check out mine & other reviews to see if something sounds good to you. Cupcake is a great label for about $10-12 and their wines tend to have a bit of residual sugar because they are made in an Australian style. Also you might like Zinfandel from California, something like Earth Zin & Fire or Four Vines.


Reply by lingprof, Oct 21, 2011.

Welcome, Michelle!  I think you may have pegged something when you said your MIL may be able to spend more.  Great wine does *not* need to be expensive.  But if you've been drinking random cheap stuff and somebody gives you a glass of something pricey, it definitely gets your attention.  There are lots of inexpensive wines that I love.... but I've had to do a lot of experimenting to find them.  I like the previous poster's suggestions of CA zin and OZ shiraz.

Going to informal wine tastings at your local shop is the very best plan.  That way you try them first and have an easy way to find out more of what you like.  And if it turns out you like the slightly more expensive ones, well.... it's a beautiful hobby.  :-)  Good luck!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 25, 2011.

Lots of dry wines can seem sweet.  While I was in NY, I went to VinItaly with GregT (thanks tons!) and had a ripasso Valpolicella (correct me here if I am wrong, GT) and my first reaction was, that's like Caramel right out of the vat!  But it was totally dry, with no RS, none of the cloying.  What you want are "fruit forward" wines.  And, in spite of the name, I counsel against dolcetto here (aka "little sweet one") since the finish on dolcetto is actually a tad bitter.  Wines with well-integrated oak will seem vanilla-y, and that might be one of the things you want. (American oak even more than french.) Zinfandel can be kind of jammy and seem sweet for that reason, so that can be a good choice, although the "heat" from the high alcohol can be off-putting for some newer wine drinkers. In the International arena, many Ribera del Dueros and other Tempranillo based wines from Spain can do that trick as well, because there's often a fair bit of oak and the attendant vanillin.

But the key, as suggested here, is to write down what you liked, and then present that to your local wine shop.  If they turn up their noses, go elsewhere, and never give them you business again. A good wine shop will work with your taste, although it will reflect the tastes of the owners and staff who have passion for their wines.

Reply by ScottLauraH, Oct 26, 2011.

A good wine shop will work with your taste, although it will reflect the tastes of the owners and staff who have passion for their wines.

I cannot agree with this more.  As you are discovering your own wine tastes, a shop with a helpful staff will be invaluable to you.  Many will also keep track of what you buy, in case you forget the name of something you liked.  In the shop where I work, I keep a virtual customer card.  Each time a customer comes in, I enter their name into our computer system before I ring up their purchase, and the system takes a snapshot of what they have bought.  Then if they come in next week and say, "Last week I bought a wine and I forgot to write it down, but I loved it!", I am able to pull up their purchase and see what it might have been.  Even if they bought a mixed case, I can at least significantly narrow down the possibilities! 

Also, I LOVE when customers come in with the names, types, or regions of wine that they have liked in the past.  People that do this have one of two goals: to find the same wine again OR to use their preferences to open the door to new possibilities.  For example, if someone comes in and tells me that they have liked Italian Pinot Grigio in the past but they would like to try something new, I may recommend a Vermentino. 

Reply by Dennis Lim, Nov 19, 2011.

Michelle, I really appreciate having read your post, as I have also been in the same situation before, nearly wanting to give it all up as I've been spending money and most of the wines I got are not what I like.

But somehow along the way, I learnt to grasped that to really enjoy the world of wines, I have to just plunge myself into it with an open mind. So just drink, learn, and have fun! With this mindset and having a great place to log my "conquests" (thanks so much to Snooth for that), the journey has never been more fun!

One suggestion I can give is to find friends who are also interested in the journey to discover new wines, of course much preferably your neighbours then you can meet up often to open and share new bottles! It's always nice to have friends around to enjoy wines with, to celebrate "good" wines (or bitch about "bad" wines)...

Drink and have fun!!!

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