In the beginning, there is the earth. Wait, that sounds too grand for our purposes. Let's skip to the part where we drink. Access to wine is easy enough if you're old enough, and most wine drinkers will tell you that they have a favourite grape varietal or label that they buy. But how do you open it, hold it, look at it, smell it, taste it and talk about it?
I guess the question is really whether you're with friends and feel ok talking in a 'winey' way about it, or if you feel a bit embarrassed, in which case you might want to make things short and sweet! Here's a good starting guide to having wine by yourself, or with friends.
Win(ing) by yourself
Drinking wine alone doesn't have to be all Bridget Jones-y, singing and crying whilst sloshing your glass about. You can drink to enjoy, or drink to learn, or both! It all starts when you buy.
Reading Labels: Telling where wines come from, when they were made, if they're good is something you can learn to do quite easily. Usually, new world wines (U.S.A, Australia for example) have fairly straight forward labels. We're good like that! Here's an example:
This is a beautiful label design for Linnaea Vineyards, a winemaking company that sells different varietals from around the world. You can see their fantastic site here. This particular wine is the Linnaea Rhizotomi. The grape varietal and vintage year can be found on the bottom, '2008 Cabernet Sauvignon', and the region of origin is California's famous Napa Valley. New world wines have really embraced interesting and individual wine labels, as have some old world wines. But for understanding the harder-to-read labels, read on!
Old world wines (France, Germany for example) are sometimes a bit trickier to crack. After having a new world wine, you might decide you have a thing for Chardonnay. So you would go and try to locate perhaps a French chardonnay. But the thing is, they often don't tell you (thank you again, New world wines). For example:
So going from the technique of observing new world wines, what can we get from this French label? I suppose if you start from the top, it's from the 2006 vintage and states 'Monopole', meaning from an exclusive Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC) area. I've chosen this wine since it is probably one of the most - if not the most - recognisable red wine in the world. Starting from the top of the label, you'll see the lines telling you that it's from the group of people in charge of the area, the Civil Society of the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti. We can also see that it's from the Cote-d'Or, in Burgundy. DRC have a few labels, and the Romanee-Conti wine is their flagship. You'll see in green that it's from the controlled area of Romanee-Conti. Most importantly, you'll see why this wine is so expensive. Not only is it supposedly amazing, but it's made in small batches. Here it says that 5,546 bottles were made, of which this is bottle number 4,631. Lastly, you can read on the bottom that it's bottled in the domain itself. It's also made with Pinot Noir, but they neglect to tell you that (you'd have to Google it!).
So I realise this is all a little obvious, but recognising immediately where something's from, what year it was made and what grape it is will go a long way to helping you choose and find out which wines are your favourites, as you learn more about them!
**I don't know why I've starred this line, but it's worth saying that old world wines with hard to read labels don't necessarily mean better wines!**
You can continue your learning curve by finding out about the different grape varietals here.
cover picture by http://www.firecrackertastings.com/wine-rating-philosophy/