When a newcomer to fine wine tries to move into the next tier of wine appreciation, the learning steps are hard to master for one good reason: there are few basics that apply to all wines.
Learning how to appreciate wine is, first of all, a most personal quest, differing for each person. If a wine tasting were staged of 10 different fine wines and offered to two dozen or so people, chances are each of the wines would get at least one vote for the best on the table.
And that is partially because, as the old Latin saying goes, “with taste, there is no debate.” (“De gustibus non est disputandem”). One person may like sweet wines, another may hate sweet wines, and that’s why there is no real answer to the question of how to appreciate wine.
So how do we approach this most unapproachable subject? First, with the essential notion that there are no right or wrong answers when you begin your quest to understand fine wine. If you like something, that’s sufficient cause for you to buy and consume it.
Yet there are standards that fine wine lovers adhere to, certain truths that generally apply to certain wines, and to which all wine lovers pay some degree of respect.
Among these are the following:
–Chardonnays generally are dry wines.
–Rieslings often are sweet wines, but some have such high acidity that they taste dry.
–Young white wines are generally a lot more appealing than older white wines.
–Oxidation of wines is generally not a good thing, except for certain specialty wines.
–Not all red wines age well.
–Those that are made to age and are held in perfect storage conditions can be superb, but often not to people who do not (yet) appreciate mature red wines.
As you can see, the basic rules are fairly general, and do not apply to all great wines. There are probably as many exceptions as there are rules!
Your best bet is to simply try various wines and take notes. As time goes by, your ability to know how to appreciate wine will grow, and your notes can be a clue as to how you are progressing.
Remember: the whole idea is to enjoy wine’s ability to harmonize with food.