Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Snooth Blogging: How to Taste More Wine for Less Money

Next week I will have part 2 of Madeira: A British Love Affair (part 1 below) ready for your perusal. Right now, it's taking more time than I expected. To hold you over, I'm including something that I recently wrote for the Snooth wine website that I thought you might enjoy. I'll be posting with them once or twice a month for a while, my topic being anything about food and wine. The post isn't entirely food related, but pertinent in the wine world none the less. Hope it tickles your fancy, and here is a link to the new Snooth wine website itself.


As a wine industry professional responsible for dispensing accurate or vividly colorful wine information to curious oenophiles, you can bet that I taste more wine weekly than your average person tastes in a month or three.

Despite the purple stains gathering unabashedly on my teeth or the high amount of tooth enamel I’ve lost from high-acidity wine samplings, I feel very lucky. My employment encourages me to engage my passion on the clock.

If someone’s aim is to absorb as much viniferous knowledge as possible, having opportunities to taste is crucial. Reading about vineyards, domaines, and grape histories links the world of wine together, but tasting is what really hammers in the knowledge. Example- it’s easy enough to read about the Fiano di Avellino grape, but almost impossible to understand its pear, almond-liscous and sea-air flavors, or think of a food pairing, until it passes through one’s lips.

That being said, wine is not cheap. In fact, unless the experience section of one’s resume benefits from the phrase “tastes at least a hundred wines monthly while working,” tasting with the aim of learning can be excruciatingly expensive.
Yet there are ways.

Five ways to learn more about wine for less money:

1. Frequent wine establishments that let you order flights, half glasses or tasting portions and order glasses at restaurants rather than bottles.

It may feel less economical since we’re taught that buying in bulk will save money, but think of it this way. One bottle equals a taste of one wine. Four half-glasses or tastes equals four tastes of different wines. Would you rather pay five dollars each for four two-ounce pours of diverse wines at one sitting, and then come back next week to try three or four more (that is eight distinct wines you’ve just tasted!), or, pay to share only one bottle (= one taste per visit) each time? Unless you absolutely have to have that hard to find Barolo on the list, buy bottles to drink at home with dinner. Buy tastes and glasses when you’re out.

2. If ordering a prix-fixe menu at a restaurant, choose the wine pairing option with the courses.

Whether it is $18 or $65, wine pairing options at reputable establishments are always a good deal and a fantastic learning experience. Most wine directors and sommeliers are very skilled at pairing wine with cuisine- it’s their job. That being said, not only will you taste at least three of the wine director’s favorite wines for less than the bottle cost, you’ll learn just by noting the pairing experience.

3. Frequent and support wine shops that offer free daily tastings.

More and more wine shops and markets are pouring a different wine nightly, for free, in order to increase awareness of wine and to help familiarize people with a store’s offerings. I’ve seen this in Berkeley, the broader Bay Area, New York City, and have faith that this common sense practice will expand.

4. Host wine tastings where each guest brings a bottle of wine made from the same grape, but from a different country.

This is a great way to share the expense of exploring differences in tastes, vintages, textures and styles due to climate, varying techniques and practices and taste preferences. Take notes, check out wine books from the library, share your findings on the region’s typical wine practices after you taste, do a little research on the vintage’s impact on the grape, and be amazed by how much you’ll learn.

5. Finally, attend wine classes and paid tastings at local shops and venues.

These are generally very good deals. You’ll be sharing the cost of the wines with other classmates and you’ll learn the wine’s background as you taste. Keep in mind, all wine educators know that the wine world consists of an amazing amount of knowledge, that no one can know everything, and that everyone starts somewhere.

Next blog- I’ll explore a glory of drinking wine with dinner. In the meantime, check out my wine and food pairing blog,

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