My new, cute little wine cooler showed up and now I just have to fill it! I have decided to make efforts to improve my wine knowledge, little by little.

I have been lucky. Learning has always been enjoyable to me and has almost always come easily. I do not have a photographic memory nor was I ever in the tippy-top of my class  but when I decide I want to learn about something new, I am able to research, watch, learn and pick it up quite quickly. There are a few exceptions to this rule.

Math was always easy for me until I took my first Calculus class and hit a wall. The stress caused stomach aches before class.  In almost every sport I was above average except basketball. I was perhaps the worst in the class and my deficiency led to gym class excuses on basketball days. I have never taken cooking classes but through experimentation and reading I have learned enough about flavors to alter recipes, add spices to appropriate foods and pair tastes that go well together.  This culinary knowledge does not seem to extend to wine.

For some reason, there is a block in my brain when it comes to retaining information about wine. I know that Chardonnay can be oake-y and that full-bodied reds are nice with hearty pasta or heavy beef dishes.  I know that, like with all foods, you should pair things that are about equal strength in taste and have flavors that compliment each other. But, which reds are the more full bodied ones again? And where does Malbec come from?  And, how do I know if the Reisling will be like that dry yummy one I loved or the syrupy sweet one I mistakenly ordered the following week?

I have tried to keep notes and have vowed to make a list of the wines I like after I try them. So far, nothing has been successful and the majority of wine knowledge I gain ends up slipping away into a brain black hole.  My usual response to these learning vacuums is to turn the other way and exercise serious avoidance.  But this time, it is going to be different.

It may take time and it may not come easily but little by little, I am going to work on my wine education. I know I’ll never be an expert but in a number of years, I hope that I can plan appropriate wines for dinner parties as easily as I can scheme up a three course menu. I will resurrect my husband’s Wine Bible and take the time to read it now and then. I’ll seek out an iPhone application to easily track what I have sipped.

As part of my new commitment, I have welcomed a new, little wine cooler into my house.  The NewAir Thermoelectric Wine Cooler holds just 21 bottles, a perfect start for my new collection. When I discover a wine I enjoy, I’ll write it down and buy a few bottles to tuck away for future sipping.  My new cooler even has dual compartments for two different storage temperatures. At this point, I don’t know which wines want what temperature but by golly, I’ll find out.

I want to love wine.  I do not want to be intimidated by it. I will except a more difficult learning process. I’ll be patient. The reward will be worth it.  My new and improved wine education plan starts now.

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17 Responses to “Commitment to Improved Wine Education”

  1. heather Says:

    You’ve completed the first step to wine education: enthusiasm! Hooray! There are a few things that have helped my fiancée and I learn more about wine. We frequently go to tastings at local wine stores, and try to visit wineries and vineyards to taste/tour when we’re traveling. My fiancée has a Droid app to scan bar-codes of the wines we drink. The program then allows us to rate the wines, leave notes and log info about the year, varietal, region, etc. If you don’t have access to something with the apps, I think there are sites online that allow you to do that, or simply a notebook like my dad does. Personally, I listened to some wine education podcasts when I took the bus back in grad school. Those were interesting and helpful, too. Hope you can get something out of this novel!



  2. Anne Says:

    Good for you! I have the exact same problem retaining information about wine – there’s just so much of it. I have a bad tendency to see a label and remember that I have purchased it in the past, but not whether I like it. Which isn’t very helpful ;-) I hope you’ll share some of your learnings here and I can follow along and try to learn with you. I actually looked for a good wine app for iphone a few months ago, but ended up giving up (or, more likely, getting distracted) when I couldn’t find an obvious winner or get a recommendation. The one Heather describes sounds great – let us know if you get the name of it.

  3. Hannah @ Bake Five Says:

    i have mental blocks too! i’m like an idiot when it comes to science and math. oh well. you can’t have it all.

    all the best with the wine knowledge, though! :D

  4. Lindsey Says:

    One of my good friends works at Fine Wine Brokers in Lincoln Square. I’m sure he’d be glad to give you some pointers – He works on Sunday afternoons and his name is Jeff, just tell him Lindsey sent you!

  5. Sasha Says:

    Great article — and you are not alone! I’ve been studying wine for fifteen years, teach classes, and have a wine blog ( Here are some things that can help:

    1. Take pics of wine labels on your iPhone/Droid whatever that you like. Even if you forget to take notes on them, you’ll be able to remember that you liked them — and show them to people in the wine store, wine knowledgeable friends, even sommeliers.
    2. Develop a good relationship with someone at your local wine store. She should keep track of what you’re drinking, what you like and don’t like, and some new wines you should try next.
    3. Buy a good reference guide. Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible is excellent.
    4. Taste/drink wines side by side. Ask for some help from your wine store with this one. Start out by trying wines made from different varieties (eg, a Viognier and a Chardonnay side by side) so you can compare and contrast. Then, take the wine you like better and compare it to another wine also from the same variety. Eg, lets say you preferred the Viognier, and it was from California. The following week, buy another bottle and taste it against a Viognier from another country, eg France. Then next time, take the Viognier you like and compare it to another Viognier from the same country (eg, two French Viogniers next to each other.) This is obviously more fun if you can do it with a few friends. Take notes. This is a great way to learn, and to develop your palate.
    5. HAVE FUN. Don’t spend any time with people who make you feel silly for asking questions. Good Lord, it’s only wine after all!

  6. heather @ chiknpastry Says:

    go you! I like to think i know a decent amount about wine, but then i go and find a varietal i’ve never heard of before, and then i get all confused again :).

    i found that “What to drink with what you eat” is a good reference, and if you’re into pairings, it’ll get you trying lots of different wines :).

  7. stresscake Says:

    Girlie, I have the EXACT SAME problem. I can’t retain wine knowledge to save my life. Though I’ve been told by a sommelier friend that I like “slutty reds”. Now that I can remember. I’ll learn with you if you’d like a partner in crime. I have a ton of wine at my house too and it keeps showing up. Fancy that.

  8. Katie@Cozydelicious Says:

    This is a great post! I feel like this about wine so often… sometimes I think I’m getting somewhere, learning a bit, then I realize I know so little of what I want to understand! But yes, being patient… very important in learning about wine.

  9. Sues Says:

    I feel exactly the same!! I love wine, but have no idea how to differentiate or understand differences. And I want to so badly. I keep saying “some day,” but I guess there’s no time like the present :) Can’t wait to hear how your adventure goes!

  10. The Rowdy Chowgirl Says:

    It’s so nice to find out that I’m not alone in this. I can never seem to remember much of anything beyond the basics about wine, in spite of going to tastings, etc. I am lucky to have an incredible wine merchant in my neighborhood who handles all of the decision making for me, but I hope someday to be a little more intelligent about wines. I’m looking forward to reading more about your learning process.

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  14. Anne Says:

    Did you ever select a wine app for the iphone? I have started looking at reviews again. Top contenders are Drync, Snooth, and Let us know if you found something good.

  15. Dana Says:

    That sounds like an admirable quest. I’ve picked up some knowledge here and there; I have to admit, though, that my wine shopping methodology still very much relies on, “Oooh, that label is pretty!” It serves me well the majority of the time.

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