You want to learn more about the different types of wine, but you don’t even know where to start. I get it. I was there not too long ago. While it might be fun to choose random $10 bottles from Trader Joe’s based off of how cool the labels look and how enticing the descriptions sound, it probably isn’t the most efficient way to build up your palate. Besides, what’s worse than going home, getting comfy, and opening up that bottle only to realize…UGH. What IS this stuff?!
Here are five easy ways to start developing your palate and figuring out what you like and dislike without having to spend a fortune buying bottle after bottle.
1 – Visit your local wine bar and get a flight: Why not sample three wines for the price of one? Most wine bars will offer at least one flight, and some will even offer a red and a white option. In the summer, you might be lucky enough to stumble across some rosé flights!
(Pictured: Everson Royce Bar in Downtown Los Angeles)
2 – Ask for a taste before ordering a full glass: Don’t feel pressured to commit to a glass of wine you’re not sure you’ll even like. If they offer a wine by the glass, they’ll be able to pour you a little taste. Asking for a taste will also allow you to venture outside of your Cabernet Sauvignon comfort zone and try that I-can’t- pronounce-it- but-it- sounds-intriguing wine you’ve been eying!
3 – Host a tasting party: If you invite five friends over and each person brings a bottle, then you
get to taste five wines for the price of one. Yay, math! To better taste and compare, focus on one type of grape or one wine region, and set a price range. For instance, you can ask everyone to bring a $15-20 Malbec, or perhaps a wine from Northern Italy for under $25.
(Hosting tip: Don’t forget to provide some snacks and water!)
4 – Visit a winery and take a tour: Winery tours are usually inexpensive (if not free), and tastings are super affordable as well. In fact, most wineries will waive your tasting fee if you end up purchasing a bottle – and you’ll more than likely end up doing just that! Before you spend hours in the tasting room, take a tour and really listen to what your guide is saying; you’ll learn so much about how their wine is made, and you’ll appreciate every sip that much more in the end.
5 – Check out a local tasting event: I never thought to do this until Nelson, the founder of The Vintner Project, suggested it. Then, I Googled “wine tasting in Los Angeles” and came across this oh-so- dangerous site: Local Tasting Events. You’re welcome, and I’m sorry. (Maybe I’ll see you at the Santa Monica Wine Fest?)
Whether you do one or all of the above, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should never be afraid to ask questions. Wine can seem so intimidating, so unapproachable, and there’s definitely that image of the condescending wine snob with his pinky pointed sky high as he swirls, sniffs, sips, and spits. However, what I’ve come to realize is that people who work in the wine industry – whether in wineries, wine shops, restaurants, or elsewhere – are all friendly people who genuinely love what they do and want you to love it, too.