How to School Yourself in Wine

Is a deep understanding of wine something anyone can learn? How about pairing wine with food? "I know what sommeliers will tell you (what they are trained to tell you): drink what you like!" says mp413. "But I also know that sometimes a wine just doesn't work with some food, while another wine will work perfectly, and I don't just want someone to tell me what to order, I want to know what to order."

Midlife thinks a great deal of wine understanding can be learned, but above a certain level, it really is a natural talent. "People's palates vary and so do their sensitivities to aroma and taste (which are completely intertwined)," says Midlife. But most people can learn enough to get by—at least enough to avoid ordering wines they know they won't like.

There are two basic steps to mastering wine, goldangl95 posits: First, learn wine "shorthand" (the sensory meaning of terms like "green apple," "hot," or "metallic"). Second, drink and experiment. "If you live near a wine growing region, go out and taste. Look at the descriptors the wineries have put out for the wine and start matching their descriptors to what you are tasting," says goldangl95. "There is nothing better than tasting 30 wines in a day to start getting a feel for a region/varietal."

IndependentWine thinks there's no substitute for at least some formal wine training. maria lorraine recommends signing up for a community college wine-tasting class—especially if you can find out who the best teacher in your area is. And one final tip on sensory learning: "It helps if you smell everything: every basket of berries, all fruits, all your spices and condiments, herbs, vegetables, flowers, everything," says maria lorraine. "That will help build your flavor memory in your brain."

Discuss: Is understanding wine a talent, or can a novice oenophile learn?

Wine tasting image from Shutterstock