This appears to be an important question based on the response to an email we sent out this week. So how do you find a wine you will like? Although there are no guarantees, if you approach wine the way we do then this is a pretty easy and low risk proposition…
1. Only try wine “blind”. If you really want to find new wines you’ll like, you have to experiment and remove as much bias about label, price, region and critical acclaim in the process. This can be done informally by having someone open a bottle without you seeing it and giving yourself the chance to have a quick taste before knowing exactly what it is. You can get a bit more serious about it by attending organized blind tastings or by designing your own by covering labels with tinfoil as you sample.
2. Don’t take wine courses. Seriously (but do take wine courses!). Once you come to the dark side and start exposing your self to top quality wines and start to know the difference the more you become hard to please. When we started drinking wine it was cheap and cheerful and often from a make your own shop. An article from Smithonian Magazine called Why you Like What you Like backs us up on this. ”Categorization, says Zellner, works in several ways. Once you have had a really good wine, she says, “you can’t go back. You wind up comparing all these lesser things to it.”
3. Trust your taste. We aren’t talking about how to define a good quality wine the way the wine industry or wine experts do. This approach fails to consider what you can smell and taste and how well. So what you are left with is your opinion of what you are smelling and tasting. Every wine in our household gets two chances. The first is on it’s own. Pour a sample, have a sniff and taste it. Pretty quickly you decide if you like it or not. And if YOU like it, YOU are right. If YOU don’t, you are also right, but that’s strike one for the wine. Put aside the fact it could be a stunning example of world class, small lot, estate grown whatever. Forget what the experts might try to choose for you without knowing you, how you taste or what you can taste.
The second chance for that wine is trying it with the food that is a match or pretty reasonable pairing for it. This is simply because a wine on it’s own smells and taste s one way but when you add a bit of food to the mix there’s a change. Kind of a chemical reaction in your mouth where the flavours of the wine miix with the bite of food and it’s at this point that you can tell if you have something you enjoy or not. If you didn’t enjoy the wine on it’s own but do enjoy the wine with the food that’s meant to go with it, you’ve just experienced the point of food and wine pairing. If you still don’t like the wine with food it’s supposedly meant to go with then never drink it again.
4. Follow wine and food you like already. Seems simple enough. If you like a wine you just tried write down the region, the grape/blend and price. Explore the same or similar regions with the same grape/blend. You can ask a product consultant at your local liquor store, talk to a wine agent friend, send us an email, or google it. If you like something and you start to explore wines that are produced in similar regions/climates from similar blends you have a great starting point.
A great Winefolly.com article, How to Find Your Wine Preference in 1 Minute, models how to follow your preferences for things like coffee, breakfast and dessert to find your new favourite wine. For example if you like coffee and your preference is for a latte you might look to similarily lush and smooth wines of the New World like Merlot, Syrah, Shiraz, Petite Sirah and Malbec.
5. Throw out your list of what you liked in the past. I guess that kind of contradicts 4. but how much risk is there in trying all kinds of different wines vs. sticking close to what has worked for you in the past? Most wines commercially available in Ontario for example have been through tasting panels and testing not to mention how winemaking globally has improved leaps and bounds over the last 20 years. Sure you might run into a few wines that aren’t your favourite but you don’t know what you don’t know and you can’t like what you never try.
When we go out for dinner we often don’t choose the wines for our meal so we have the chance to try something new. When we were touring Spain we found a great little restaurant in the heart of Rioja. We put ourselves in the hands of the Sommelier serving us that night and it paid off big time. For starters most good restaurants have staff who try the food and wine together or at least put some thought to it. If you have food and wine you’ve never tried and you think a few wine courses prepare you to make the best decision you are kidding yourself. We tried a white asparagus and mushroom cream sauce with a Gran Reserva Red Rioja when we likely would have leaned towards a white wine on our own. Instead we opened our eyes and dazzled our taste buds with a regional pairing that I can still taste.
What are your top methods for finding wines you love? Share in the comments below.
Ready to have some new wines show up at your home or office each month? Join our wine club and we will auto ship new wines every month or quarter and you can even save $10 on your first order using promocode groovygrapes. Plus if you don’t like them you know who to blame!