One of the most common questions I get is how to “get into” wine. There’s something about wine that’s intimidating to people. Maybe it’s the number of options in even a small wine section at the store, or the way a small group of people have made it seem like only sommeliers can select a good bottle. And I get it- before I started drinking wine I thought it was either gross or too expensive to get something good. It took several years and a lot of trial and error to learn what I like. I managed it, though, and you can, too.
My journey into wine started very badly. The day I turned 21 I bought a little 4 pack of mini bottles and tasted the worst drink I have ever had. I was 100% convinced that wine was terrible and people who drank it didn’t have taste buds. It was several years before I was brave enough to try wine again. Fortunately, that was a much better experience. I was living in Virginia at the time and attended a wine festival and polo tournament on a whim. The wine tasting at the festival was unlimited and I primarily tried sweeter wines. They seemed like a safe bet because I like sweet things. After that I signed up for a few wine clubs that sent random wines every few months. I had some wines I liked and some I didn’t. I remained a fan of sweet wines but I also started appreciating others more, especially medium-bodied reds. I have no idea why I made that jump but it worked for me. After several more years of research, wine clubs, randomly trying bottles from the store, and befriending my local Spec’s wine section employees, I can appreciate most wines even when I don’t love them.
So if you’re interested in “getting into” wine, I highly recommend starting with a wine festival or a wine club. Wine festivals are a great opportunity to try wine from a number of different producers and talk to the people who actually make the wine. They often love talking to others about what makes their wine special and they’ll be more than happy to make recommendations.
If a wine festival isn’t an option, subscribing to a wine club. Most wine clubs allow you to skip orders or cancel right away, so you’re not stuck getting wine every single month for years on end if you don’t want. The nice thing about wine clubs, though, is they carefully select their wines to appeal to many customers and they offer brands that you don’t usually see at the store. Many of them will also offer suggestions based on what you have and haven’t liked in the past, so you will get to try different things and learn more about different wines and what you like. You’ll also usually receive tasting notes that have information about the grapes in the wine and the vineyards they came from. The caveat to this is that the wines you get from a lot of wine clubs and from Wine Insiders are hard/impossible to find outside of the clubs. This is because they’re often private labels that are only created for the clubs.
I really like Wine Insiders because it’s not a monthly wine club- you just place an order whenever you want- but they put together cases of wine for good prices. They’ll periodically send out mailers with their featured cases. I’ve had wines I didn’t love, but I’ve never had a wine I hated or was poor quality. The first time I tried Vermentino was in a Wine Insiders case and I really liked it.
NakedWines.com is another wine club I really love. It’s really more of a community and it is a long term commitment if you become an Angel, but you have the benefit of trying wines that aren’t readily available to the public and you support small wine makers.
Wine of the Month Club is also a good option, especially if you prefer having just a little wine at a time. They have different membership levels but the basic one is 2 bottles of wine each month. When I did this club I felt like I received too much Chardonnay and Merlot, but the wines were good quality. I just prefer a little more variety and to try varietals I haven’t had before.
My biggest piece of advice is to just be patient and open to trying new things. Drinking wine should be fun and trying new wines should be exciting, not a burden. If you can, keep track of what wines you’ve tried so you can see if there are particular brands or styles you like or don’t. And remember- it’s a good wine if YOU like it, so don?t stress too much about what others say. Keep me posted on your journey and let me know if you have anything that just knocks your socks off!