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Developing a palate for wine...

I grew up in a family where alcohol was never consumed (not for any religious reasons). Recently, I have found myself in company that drinks and enjoys wine, and I am completely ignorant about anything to do with wine! I don't particularly enjoy it, but I have been told it's for an acquired taste.

My question is, that if it is true that one would need to develop a palate for wine, what would be the best way to go about doing it? I mean, are there certain wines that one could start with...a "beginner's" wine, if you will? Heck, is this adage even true, or am I wasting my time trying to like something where my efforts will prove to be fruitless?

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  1. I think a great beginers wine would be a reisling. It's fruity and depending on who makes it the wine can be anywhere from dry to a bit sweet. Reisling generally has a very light taste so it won't overpower anything you are eating along with it, but what you are eating may tend to overpower the reisling. I find that it goes best with apples, pears, stone fruit, aged cheddar, gruyere...

    1 Reply
    1. re: jpc8015

      thank you for the suggestion! I will pick myself up a riesling next time :)

    2. First of all, you have to learn HOW to drink wine. It isn't popped like a shot, or glugged like Pepsi or beer. The whole mouth gets into the act.

      I would enlist your friends who enjoy wine for a little Wine 101 evening. The other thing I suggest to wine newbies who want to begin learning about it, is to find an amiable wine merchant who regularly does tastings in the store (free). and go to them. Make friends with the merchant, and you will have a valuable ally who will help you develop your palate.

      You are only wasting your time if YOU think you are. For me, wine is one of the most interesting of all subjects, that provides more than one lifetime of learning experiences.

      5 Replies
      1. re: ChefJune

        I think this is the best suggestion. If you give a wine merchant feedback on how you like the bottles you get from him/her, he will help you branch out from the things you like. This way, you'll be able to develop a repertoire of things you like, things that you can order at restaurants, wine types you know you can enjoy with your friends.
        I would suggest finding a merchant who has free tastings. This way, you can give immediate information about your preferences in a very concrete way. He can help you work from there.

        1. re: ChefJune

          Amen, sip slowly. Trust me.

          Quick note on the Rieslings: try to get one low on acidity. If you do not know (you probably won't) ask. Most merchants love talking about wine, whether to newcomers or the more experienced and look forward to seeing you again.

          1. re: Icantread

            he can try both "low acidity or not" , why force an untrained palate into one direction; let him discover.

            1. re: Maximilien

              Low acid Riesling sounds like it would be completely unbalanced. It's predominantly a cooler-climate grape, so higher acidity is natural. Perhaps a trocken could handle lower acidity, but definitely not a spatlese+.

              1. re: Maximilien

                It's not forcing him in one direction. Most people with "untrained palates" have difficulty with the flavor of more acid and food friendly wines. Riesling can be very acid. For me, it was easiest to learn through less acid offerings and move towards them as I learned to taste.

          2. In most areas there are wine tasting classes, some free, some for a fee. They're often hosted in wine or upscale food stores. Some universities, colleges, and community colleges offer classes. And if you're fortunate enough to live near vineyards, they are a magnificent resource. Check around. There is a lot to be learned about wine that ranges from how to use your eyes, olfactory receptors and taste buds for optimum tasting pleasure, as well as lots of information about the grapes, the wine making process and types of wine and pairings. You have a LOT of fun ahead of you. Happy taste buds!

            1. You just have to drink, and accept that it's ok to not like wines that other people tell you they are supposed to be good.

              There are no 'beginner's" wine (with some exceptions)

              Go to a store, pick one in your price range, and go home, drink it, and next time go to the store and tell them that you bought X and you either liked it or not, then ask for recommendation that is similar or different, and continue your journey.

              remember, there are no good or bad wines (except when technically bad), only wines you like or not.

              And like everything in life there are exceptions to the rules.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Maximilien

                "There are no 'beginner's" wine "

                True, but definitely there are "no beginner's wines"

                Like, I wouldn't recommend focioncroci to get started with a d'Yquem.

              2. It really depends how "into it" you want to get. Depending on where you live, there are plenty of wine classes, retailers that have tastings from time to time, and you and your wine-drinking friends can always get together.

                The main thing is to taste taste taste.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Brad Ballinger

                  I'll just add to Brad's suggestions by also recommending that you find a nice wine bar with an owner/bar tender that is actually interested in wine