(I partnered with Entwine Wines to bring you today’s post!)
Alright, everyone, settle down. Class is in session, and today, it’s all about the good stuff.
Yep, you heard me right. I’m swapping out my spatula for my corkscrew and digging into the big, beautiful world of wine. Over the next few months I’ll be bringing you a three-part series on everything I think you need to know about wine.
Today’s post is Wine 101: Back to Basics. This isn’t going to be a boring read all about wine varietals and growing regions. This is about what I think wine basics should really be about. Keep reading; I think you might be surprised!
You guys know how much I love food, right? I bet you didn’t know just how much I love wine. I’m a big believer that the proper beverage pairing can make a HUGE difference in the overall enjoyment of a meal.
Depending on the meal, the right beverage could be anything from coffee, tea, or juice to wine, beer, or cocktails. You could even get really crazy and stick to the husband’s favorite: milk.
Not many people spend a lot of time talking about whether 1% or whole milk better accompanies a rib-eye steak. They DO spend a lot of time– and I really mean A LOT of time– talking about wine pairings.
Wine is one of those topics that can make you feel like you will never be enough of an “expert” to talk about it with other people. You wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself by incorrectly identifying herbal aromas instead of fruity notes in a dry rosé, right?
Here’s the thing, though: just when you feel like the person who knows the least about wine, it’s likely that everyone else in the room is thinking the exact same thing.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: Wine used to make me feel like an idiot.
I mean, just look at this chart:
Original Source: Different Types of Wine
This came from a website which is supposed to help you understand “wine basics.” Is it just me, or does that infographic seem anything BUT basic?
Talking about wine, or, even worse, pairing wine with food, can be overwhelming, intimidating, and confusing.
I wanted to write a post about demystifying wine, so I reached out to Wente Vineyards to help supply me with, um, research materials (<– this means wine).
I first discovered Wente Vineyards at a blogger meet-up in Phoenix where I was introduced to the entwine wine portfolio label, which was developed in collaboration with Food Network and launched in 2011. With five generations of wine making experience, Wente Vineyards’ knowledge and expertise could hardly go unnoticed! entwine wines were developed specifically to be paired with food (and are just as tasty when sipped on their own).
Now, THAT is my kind of wine.
Let me back up a little bit and tell you a story. The first time I ever attended a wine tasting (literally one week after my twenty-first birthday), I felt really, really awkward.
My mom and grandma took me out to a vineyard here in the Willamette Valley, and I remember looking over the tasting notes (and the, uh, spit bucket) and wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into.
I found myself agreeing with the tasting steward on just about everything.
“Yes, I can really taste the bright acidity and earthy undertones of that vintage red.”
“You’re absolutely right, the oak barrel aged Chardonnay tastes completely different than the steel barrel-aged I just tasted.”
“Ah, I’m so glad I ate those oyster crackers between samplings so I could taste the unique raspberry notes in the Sangiovese and blackberry undertones in the Shiraz.”
Fast forward a few years to not long after I met my now-husband, Jesse. He had somehow avoided ever attending a wine tasting, so of course it was my obligation and duty to take him back to that same place so he could enjoy a similar experience.
“Uh, all of the reds pretty much taste the same. Same with the whites. I guess I like the Pinot Grigio the best?”
We left feeling like maybe we just weren’t high-class enough to be born with palates capable of discerning the most subtle flavor differences between vintage years. How embarrassing! Obviously all of our friends have wine tasting capabilities that even a master sommelier would envy, right?
Yeah, not so much. For whatever reason, wine has been hijacked by hoity-toity culture and turned into something unapproachable to everyone but Europeans and philosophy professors.
While we were in Greece, wine was served as an accompaniment to just about every meal. They didn’t ask if we wanted it or not, it just came along with it like a glass of water would here in The States. We didn’t spend ages pouring over a wine menu in indecision, trying to decipher which wine would best “pair” with our meal. We simply enjoyed a glass of wine with our food, and it was fabulous.
Why isn’t this the custom back home? Are we too afraid of ordering the wrong thing, or looking foolish in front of our friends? Why can’t we just focus on what improves the enjoyment of our food, rather than what is “supposed” to be paired with it?
When I started getting curious about this weird wine phenomenon, I asked a few of my friends to tell me their burning questions about wine. Here are some of their responses:
- How do I know the difference between a good wine and a bad wine?
- What is the proper way to taste wine?
- Should I be looking for the “legs?”
- What on earth is the “nose?”
- How do I know I’m choosing a good wine?
- Does the year or the brand matter?
- How do I order off of a wine list?
I thought about taking the time to answer all of these questions, but figured that anyone who really wanted to know could look it up in any number of online resources for explaining “wine basics.”
Instead, I want to leave you with a simple message:
You are making it too difficult.
When it comes to wine, just ask yourself two questions.
- Do you like the way it tastes?
- Does it enhance the enjoyment of your food?
That’s about as “basic” as it can get, but I don’t think there’s much else that really matters. If you can answer yes to both of those questions, then pour yourself another glass and enjoy yourself.
If you’re looking for a place to start, pick up a few bottles of entwine wines – they have two reds (Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) and two whites (Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio), and every bottle has a label on the back which gives pairing ideas.
Instead of trying to find that perfect bottle to go with your meal, why not pick your wine first and plan a meal to go with it?
Find a few bottles of wine that you like. Try something new. Get crazy and drink Chardonnay with steak and Merlot with fish.