I’m not much of a drinker, but I recently began dating a girl whose father is into wine. And when I say he’s into wine, I mean he’s really into wine – he takes trips to California to visit wineries, has a whole wine cellar full of bottles, and is always asking me what I think of this or that wine that he’s serving when I visit. I’m of legal drinking age and have nothing against drinking, so I don’t really have a polite escape when he asks me to try some vintage or other, but I feel so dumb when I can’t comment on it in an intelligent way. Can you give me a crash course in wines?
Wine has been around since at least 7000 BCE, and it has gotten plenty complicated over the years. Wine is an alcoholic beverage made of fermented grapes, of course, and its alcohol content is typically 5.5% to 15.5% – but, as you well know, things can get much trickier than that.
Wine comes in all sorts of types. It can vary based on the types of grapes used, the region in which the wine is grown, and the age of the wine, among other things. There are honey wines and fortified wines (which have distilled spirit added to them). It can cost a few dollars or thousands. There’s a lot to know!
But there are also some basics that can allow just about anyone to get into wine, say the sellers at Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlet of Woodbridge, New Jersey. For starters, you’ll want to know the two main types: red and white. The difference here is the grapes, and the results are unique. Red wine is typically served at room temperature, while white wine is usually chilled.
Next up: grape varieties. There are a lot of different grapes used to make wine, and one of the simplest ways to get more out of your wine experience is to learn which ones you like. Many modern wines use just one type of grape, which makes it easy to find out what sorts you like. These wines are called varietals (as in the variety of grape), and you’ll see the grape right on the label: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and so on. There are also blends, which – as you might expect – blend different varieties of grapes.
Then there are the regions. French and Italian wines are the most famous in the old world, but excellent new world wines – often varietals – are being made in places as far-flung as Argentina and California. French wines are a little different from others in that they are typically named for a region, not by grape variety. Each region uses certain grapes in its wines.
There is much more to learn, of course, but start by exploring what you like: red or white, this variety of grape or that, old-world or new world or this region or that one. Relax and have fun, say the connoisseurs at Covington, Louisiana Acquistapace’s, a supermarket that sells specialty wines and other products. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from the liquor store employees, bartenders, and others whom you’ll meet on your wine explorations. In fact, maybe you should start by asking your girlfriend’s father: he clearly has a passion for wines, and you may find that asking questions will help you enjoy each other’s company more than any private study on your part ever could.
“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.” – John Keats