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What do you know about wine?

And what do you wish you knew? How do you try to improve your wine knowledge.

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  1. Q1: "What do you know about wine?"
    A1: There's not enough room on Chowhound to fully answer that question.

    Q2: "And what do you wish you knew?"
    A2: Well, how do we know what we don't know? OK. Sorry. It's not polite to answer a question with a question. I'd like to know more than I do about Austrian wines, and more about Italian wines beyond Piedmont and Tuscany.

    Q3: "How do you try to improve your wine knowledge?"
    Drink a lot.

    1 Reply
    1. re: zin1953

      When I was younger and single I was really into wine. I'd spend most of my reading time w/ Oz Clarke or other wine experts trying to gather information. It was a great time in my life. Then I got married and it changed or stopped. I kinda know what I know and don't know. I wish I knew more about California and US NW wines. What knowledge I do have is generally about France and Italy and a little Germany. But I haven't ordered a bad bottle in years. We'll see what the future holds.

    2. I know what I like and I try to expand my knowledge by trying new things.

      1. I just wished I was a bit more "disciplined" and keep notes with me when shopping for wines.

        I tend to go for known stuff.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Maximilien

          Amen to that! After looking back at all the wines I've tried over the years, I'd love to have a full notebook of labels and notes to peruse and help me make more intelligent choices when I"m standing in front of a long line of selections.

        2. οὖτος μὲν οἴεταί τι εἰδέναι οὐκ εἰδώς, ἐγὼ δέ, ὥσπερ οὖν οὐκ οἶδα, οὐδὲ οἴμαι

          "This man, on one hand, believes that he knows something, while not knowing [anything]. On the other hand, I – equally ignorant – do not believe [that I know anything]."


          1. A fair amount - lots of visits to vineyards and tasting rooms in the US and Europe, a lot of self-study, and a lot of sampling. I'm no expert by any stretch, but I know more than most, and I can hold my own at a full-on tasting.

            Wish I knew more about all of it.

            I talk to (and listen to) winemakers when we visit, and taste, taste, taste.

            1. 1. Actually, quite a bit. It would take longer than I have right now to answer that question correctly. I know what I like -- at least where my palate is at this stage.

              2. I wish I knew more about South African, Austrian, Hungarian wines. (Tasted some interesting Bulgarian wines - one of them for the 2nd time -- yesterday).

              3. Drink a lot of wine. Ask a lot of questions of winemakers and read a lot. Go to tastings and try especially the stuff I don't know...

              1. I know I like hot weather grapes and varietals. I know that tho I am indifferent to S.V. Blanc, add a bit of Semillon and I am all over it.
                I also know that I don't have the palate of a real wine pro and that i don't really want or need it.

                I want to know why wine never tastes the same, ever.

                After trying to crash course self teach, my current plan on improving my wine knowledge is to give up control and to ask. Where I was once hesitant to walk into a wine shop or ask a waitstaff at a restaurant, I am now comfortable walking in and asking for a choice of Rhone blends in the $40 range , or tastes in restaurant before choosing a bottle.

                7 Replies
                1. re: budnball

                  "Hot weather grapes and varietals"???

                  Could you do me a favor, and be specific . . .

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Grenache and Rhone Blends, Zins, CNdPs , Syrahs, Viognier, Rousanne, Calif Cabs.

                    1. re: budnball

                      Hmmmm . . . hardly what I would consider "hot weather grapes."

                      Even if you limit yourself to UC Davis' five climactic regions (I-V, with Region I being the coldest), none of those are recommended for anything higher than a Region III, if I recall correctly -- certainly not for "premium" wines, and most of those varieties are recommended for Regions I and II, though Grenache is a II-III . . . .

                      1. re: zin1953

                        I'm guessing the folks in Lyon and CNdP were *wishing* they were in hot-weather grape zones when they were shoveling snow last week.....

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Yes, well . . . I've been in Ampuis and Condrieu in the snow and ice . . . not fun! ;^)

                  2. re: budnball

                    The fact that wine never tastes the same ever is always so fascinating and frustrating for me. I think it'w hat makes it an interesting drink - age, exposure to air, what you are eating/smelling at the same time can drastically change perceptions.

                    The worst is when the wine has sat in the decanter or open in the bottle and it just seems like it'll never open. Start drinking it with a really creamy cheese and just as we're almost done the magic happens - the wine opens up - and I think *!@a! should have waited.

                    1. re: goldangl95

                      it's also interesting watching how the same varietal change from region to region, and from winemaker to winemaker.

                  3. I spend a great deal of time tasting, and making notes: mental and in writing.

                    I do a lot of food and wine pairings, and while some of that is based on "general recommendations," a lot is based on personal tastings.

                    I do several "trade tastings" per year, several International Wine & Food Society tastings, and then, delve into my personal cellar, to taste - taste and taste.


                    1. To get to your other questions:

                      What I know about wines would fill maybe 3 large volumes. What I do not know about wine, would fill maybe 2,000 large volumes - but I am working on that.


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        What a great way to put it, Hunt!

                        I usually say the more I know about wine, the more I know I don't know. I think that's what's so fascinating about the subject (besides, of course, that it tastes good!)

                      2. Here's all I know about wine:

                        1. Figure out how much I want to spend (under $15 a bottle almost always, under $10 if I can find one that cheap that I like).

                        2. Buy one bottle each of several likely suspects, based on what other people or sources like Wine Spectator say. Drink them. Or use them for marinade or drain cleaner, whichever proves appropriate.

                        3. Go back to the store very quickly and buy a bunch more of the one(s) I like.

                        Fervid discussions of terroir and new oak barrels bore hell out of me.


                        1. I actually love this question, nice post jgrad.

                          1. Not nearly enough. After working at restaurants and distributors and wineries for 20 years (and I suppose I should add posting and reading here for ~7), I have only learned how much I don't know about wine. One thing I know for sure though, no matter what level of knowledge, people who are truly passionate about wine, in the best sense of that word, are the most interesting and most important to talk to, about wine.

                          2. I think of this question in terms of what could I find in a book vs. what would I like to have answered that has no easy or academic answer. For example, Burgundy is complicated but I can easily look up "Clos de la Barre" and be reminded that both Louis Jadot and Comtes Lafon own vineyards outright (Monopoles) called "Clos de la Barre" but in different regions (though next to each other and in some cases, I did say confusing right, overlapping) and the Volnay (Jadot) is a Premier Cru Red while the Meursault (Lafon) is a Village level white Lieu Dit and yet is more expensive. And if any of this confused you, you could find sources online or in books that could explain it. I had to look it up to remind myself. I don't wish I knew that stuff off the top of my head though I guess I kinda knew enough to know it is confusing. I want to know more of the stuff you have to learn by talking to really people. Like what the actual blend is in any Italian wine. ;)

                          3. I tipped my hand, it's talking to people and tasting. It's in both my responses to the first two questions. Tasting is great but tasting alone is like trying to solve cold fusion without taking a lot of physics classes--you need at least a little collective wisdom if you are going to get anywhere and maybe there's one wierdo who ends up teaching you the most.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: ellaystingray

                            I dunno . . . I don't think it's anywhere near as complicated, confusing or complex as you seem to be suggesting . . .

                            Yes, there are two vineyards named "Clos de la Barre." So what? There are probably 4-6+ named "Clos de la Roche," but context is everything. So, too, are "umpteen" American wineries named "Ridge" -- many of which are nowhere near a mountain ridge. Then again -- OMG! -- how do you ever remember that Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape, and Bordeaux is a region? How do you ever remember that Shenandoah Valley is BOTH an appellation in California and in Virginia?

                            And how do you ever remember that a pork butt is from the *other* end of the hog . . . .


                            YES. Some learning and memorization is required (or, at the very least, beneficial), but isn't that true of everything in Life?

                            1. re: zin1953

                              Agreed that maybe wasn't the best illustration, particularly for someone in the industry. I think what I meant to say is that I don't worry so much about memorizing certain minutae that are easily looked up--varietal percentages in a certain blend--but am more interested in learning who the vineyard manager is and hearing what their approach is. Nonetheless you are correct that even a casual wine drinker should try to remember that Cabernet is a grape.

                              1. re: jlbwendt

                                J I take it you go backwards in your learning.

                                  1. re: zin1953

                                    I think wineglas1 is saying he/she simply has more knowledge about wine today than he/she did a year ago. Small steps.

                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                      Was it that hard to figure out. Thank you Chinon.

                                      As far as tasting notes and ability to determine quality of wine I have vast knowledge. I would like to one day be on a national scale of wine reviewing.

                                      Today they are way too many wine bloggers with little or no palate making a name for themselves by getting free samples and promoting terrible brands.

                                      I would like to educate the main stream public on good wines that cost more than $15 which is the bulk of these so called wine bloggers.

                                      1. re: wineglas1

                                        Not difficult, just intentionally vague. Why bother posting (initially) without divulging more?

                                        And taste/palate is subjective. Your - or anyone else's- preferences are not superior.

                            1. I know very little, or at least that is what I perceive from the postings here by people who are either very knowledgeable and have well developed palates or are extremely convincing writers...my guess being the former but also pretty darned articulate. What I just learned was how important it is to have a rapport with a knowledgeable salesperson. There were two wine stores where I used to get most of my wines. I am a hard working state employee so really pricey wine, especially by the case, is not going to happen. We really like Oregon pinot noirs. One guy is always pushing hard and convinced me to try a Patricia Green. A week or two later I was at the other store talking about Oregon PN and mentioned I'd tried that one (2011) and really did not like it. He said it was located on a ridge with a lot of iron and is not very drinkable now. Give it five years and it ought to be pretty darned good. So now I have one wine store and am happy. Today I stocked up, by the way, and snagged a few more bottles of the 2011 Gothic Nevermore. I am tempted to buy some more Patricia Green but I will let it sleep.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: tim irvine

                                Tim, I can count the number of times I've purchased a full case of wine on one hand . . . In over four decades of buying wines, I *may* have purchased a full case of one wine six times. There are just too many great wines out there, and too many wines I'd miss out on if I spent my money on 12 bottles of the same wine.

                                If you find/have a good wine merchant, he/she is worth their weight in gold! Describe what you like, given them a budget, and listen to their suggestions. Try two or three, and then GO BACK -- find the same sales person, and tell them what you thought of the wines you bought based upon their recommendations . . . WHETHER OR NOT you liked it. You may find that Wine A was good, but . . . or that Wine B was just horrible . . . or that Wine C was great! Doesn't matter: tell them what you thought of the wines, where the suggestions worked, where they didn't, and what you would have liked better if . . .

                                For example: you would have liked it better if it was a little bit sweeter, or drier; heavier or lighter (think milk shake vs. non-fat milk); smoother or more rustic, and so on and so on . . .

                                A good retailer will listen to you, and adjust his or her suggestions to better fit your desires.

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  That is exactly what I am doing. Today he got me to try a couple of comparably priced Bugundies. I am looking forward to them!

                                  My wine knowledge is very out of date so when I buy cabs I gravitate to the ones I remember from the 60s and 70s. This board may gel me to stretch a little. I hope.

                                  1. re: zin1953


                                    I sort of wish that I had done, as you have, since my cellar is overflowing... but with wines that I DO enjoy. Still, with only so much time, so much $ and so much space, I feel bad at filling the cellar with so few wines. Still, following a case, through its evolution, is great fun too. Maybe I just need a larger cellar???

                                    I once did more mixed cases, maybe 4 btls. of three, but then, would fall prey to THAT great wine (by my humble palate), and could not resist, again, and again.

                                    As for the salespersons, I could not agree more. A good salesperson can translate the buyer's palate, and recommend some excellent wines. I could never do that, as I focus too much on just what I enjoy. They are much better, than I could ever be.


                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Well, keep in mind that -- since I was in the wine trade from age 16 -- I was most often my *own* salesperson, and always had a wide variety of wines from which to choose. It's also helped me learn a great deal about how wines evolved and changed with bottle age.

                                      I agree that -- for that latter purpose -- having 12 bottles is better than 4 or 6, but it did let me have a wider variety of wines to "play" with.

                                      Now that I've retired from the wine trade, however, I *do* buy fewer specific wines, but more bottles of the wines I buy . . .

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        That "variety" is an important aspect, and a big reason that I urge a wine newcomer to start with mixed cases.

                                        Fortunately, I have had but a few "what WAS I thinking?" when looking at the remainder of a full case of _____ . There have been a few regrets (do not mean to sound like a Sinatra song here), but not THAT many - but then I am but a wino, so what do I know?

                                        You also make a point about being the "salesman." Predicated on another comment of mine, in this thread, how were you able to totally detach yourself, when in that role, from your personal tastes? That would be tough for me, but would be critical to be a really good wine salesperson.


                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          That takes a long answer . . . but the short answer is this: as a wine buyer AND as a judge, you need to be able to "divorce" yourself for the type of wine that ***you*** (subjectively) like, and be able to appreciate that, even if you don't like it, ___________ is a really good example of that kind of wine.

                                          More later . . . .

                                2. Here's what I know about wine:

                                  1. It tastes terrible. Really.
                                  2. It makes me nauseous.
                                  3. It gives me a bangin' headache and an asthma attack.
                                  4. It deadens-not enhances- the taste of food.
                                  5. Some people like it, some don't. I don't.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: nationalbar

                                    So just curious: why you check the Wine board?

                                  2. I know enough to hold my own . I have gathered information for years ,reading as much as possible. For a humble household, it can get rather expensive to have, on a regular basis.
                                    So, unless you own a vineyard, I would suggest buying Irish whiskey
                                    in between bottles of wine, because it doesn't go bad as quickly.Then, once in awhile splurge on a bottle of wine that you really like, and savor each sip. I have also learned to buy what I really like instead of what I think I should like. A really good bottle of wine can be very exciting !

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: vadusu

                                      I agree completely on the occasional splurge, but a mixed half case can be a fun plunge into the unknown. For example I just snagged four Oregon pinots and two burgundies for about what a Monte Bello cab would have been. I know in ten years the MB will be spectacular, but so far my PNs have been awfully nice. BTW the 11 Ponzi and Gothic Nevermore are both delish, very different, and 19 and 25, respectively, in Austin.