Friday, April 28, 2017

Top Ten Wines of 2007

In less than two weeks, on Tuesday, May 9, The Passionate Foodie blog will have its 10th Anniversary! I've been spending time surveying the over 4100 posts I've written, contemplating all the myriad subjects I've covered. I've already reposted my first two articles and now I'm going to highlight my Top Ten Wines of 2007. Have my wine tastes changed during the last ten years? Look for more of my memories during the next couple weeks.

(The follow articles were originally posted on December 12 & 13, 2007).

First, here is a list of my Top Ten Wines Under $15.
1. 2006 Verdad Rose, California ($13)
2. 2004 Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino di Sardegna, Italy ($10)
3. 2005 Tenuta Pederanza Lambrusco “Grasparossa”, Italy ($13.99)
4. 2004 Conti Zecca Donna Marzia Negromaro, Italy ($9.99)
5. 2003 Vinho Tinto Palestra, Portugal ($8)
6. 2006 Vinho Branco "Grilos", Portugal ($13)
7. 2005 Falset Marca Falset, Spain ($9.99)
8. 2006 Ladera Sagrada Papa, Spain ($13.99)
9. 2005 El Burro Kickass Garnacha, Spain ($12)
10. 2006 Bodegas La Purisma Estio, Spain ($8.99)

As you can see, there are mostly Old World wines on my list, which hasn't changed over the last ten years. They often seem to possess better value than many California wine. And you can see Portugal is on the list, and that country continues to be a great place for wine values. Several Spanish wines made the list, partially as I took a two week journey to Spain in 2007, tasting many excellent wines.

Second, here is a list of my Top Ten Wines Over $15.
1. 2003 Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, California ($50)
2. 2004 Cliff Lede Claret, California ($39)
3. 2003 Fort Ross Vineyard Pinotage, California ($36)
4. 2005 Sutton Cellars Carignane, California ($17)
5. 2004 Buehler Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, California ($25)
6. 2003 Castello La Lecchia Chianti Classico ‘Bruciagna’, Italy ($30)
7. 2000 Lidakis Archanes, Greece ($18)
8. 2004 Filipa Pato Ensaios, Portugal ($25)
9. 2005 Bellum Providencia, Spain ($18)
10. 2004 KanonKop Estate Wine Pinotage, South Africa ($35)

This list was very California heavy which you generally won't find in subsequent years, as the list become more diverse. You can already see some of that diversity, such as Greek wines and South African Pinotage. In later years, I delve more into plenty of niche wines, giving voice to worthy wines which don't receive as much attention as they deserve, such as Franciarota, Alsatian wines, Georgian wines, Vermouth, and more. However, I still think these two 2007 lists present plenty of worthy wines and you might want to seek out their current vintages.

How have your wine tastes changed over the last ten years?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I highlight some interesting, upcoming food & drink events.
1) From May 1st through May 31, MET Restaurant Group will host its 12th Annual Soft Shell Crab Festival, serving the delicious crustacean four different ways at MET Back Bay.

Hailing from Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, soft shell crabs have tantalized the taste buds of seafood lovers across the globe. The MET has explored a variety of flavors and techniques that reveal the best of this seasonal seafood, and each night guests can choose from three different styles including Meunière, Fried and Sautéed Soft Shell Crab ($28 each). For an afternoon delight, MET is offering a Soft Shell Crab Po’ Boy for $15.

To make Reservations, please call 617-267-0451

2) History meets modern day with the upcoming opening of North Square Oyster Bar on May 15th. The oldest public square in the country, the North End’s North Square, will soon be getting a modern facelift with upcoming seafood-focused restaurant North Square Oyster from Nicholas Frattaroli. Owner of North End gastropub Ward 8, Nicholas Frattaroli aims to blend the old with the new- paying homage to the location’s storied history while creating a lively, fresh dining destination for locals and tourists alike.

Helmed by Chef Douglas Rodrigues, formerly of Clio and Liquid Art House, the menu will feature creative New England seasonality with a focus on seafood. Ranging in size and flavor from Boston staples to more chef-driven choices, the menu will be divided into raw bar; hot and cold small plates; “on bread” sandwiches and burgers; large-format entrées; and desserts. A variety of oysters will be sourced from local favorites, including Wellfleet on Cape Cod and Island Creek in Duxbury, in addition to west coast gems, such as Hama Hama and Hog Island in California. Rodrigues will offer five versions of mignonette sauce along with wasabi, horseradish, and an innovative, Japanese-inspired kosho cocktail sauce to complement the oyster selection.

Menu highlights include:
Sea Urchin with Holland asparagus, wasabi, plum, chive blossom, and lily bulb
Brown Butter Lobster Roll with chives and homemade vinegar chips
Clam Chowder Boule with kombucha sourdough boule and bacon
Foie Gras Pate with whipped terrine, cherry, celery marmalade, and toast scoops
Scituate Lobster Pie with spring mushroom, ragu, Scituate lobster, sherry, tarragon, black truffle
30-Day Aged Steak Tips with rosemary fingerling potatoes, charred onion, ramps, and au jus
Pork Belly Cotton Candy with lime-spun sugar, black lime, chartreuse jelly, and raspberry sorbet

I have always wanted to do a seafood concept as it's my favorite type of restaurant to eat at. We are looking forward to bringing fresh seafood and a strong raw bar to a historic setting in such a special neighborhood. I'm thrilled with the team we have in place and look forward to being a part of the fabric of the North End when we open our doors this spring," says Frattaroli.

Ward 8’s General Manager Mike Wyatt will oversee the bar program as beverage manager to develop a creative, carefully curated cocktail menu. With a full liquor license, North Square Oyster will serve a variety of local, New England-based spirits, craft beers, and seafood-friendly wines. The classic cocktail menu will center on quintessential martini service with spirit and garnish choices that will be approachable to both cocktail novices and veterans alike.

3) Capo introduces dinner and a show on Monday evenings with an all new Comedy Night at Supper Club at Capo. The Supper Club at Capo is South Boston’s destination for live entertainment, where premier bands and DJs take the stage Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Supper Club at Capo is adding Monday night Comedy to their entertainment lineup, featuring a rotating schedule of Boston’s most talented comedians, hosted by Boston comedian Will Noonan.

Tickets are available on Eventbrite and at the door for $15 per person and include admission to comedy night in the Supper Club at Capo. Now through Memorial Day, guests who present their EventBrite receipt can redeem $15 towards an entrée of choice from Executive Chef Tony Susi’s menu of rustic Italian dishes. Guests can enjoy their included entrée in either Capo dining room or downstairs Supper Club the night of the event. The full dinner menu will be available in the Supper Club on Monday evenings starting at 7:00 p.m.

The upcoming Monday Night Comedy lineup includes:
Monday, May 1
Christine Hurley, Dan Crohn, and Dan Zollo
Monday, May 8
Graig Murphy and Lamont Price
Monday, May 15
Tom Dustin, Harrison Stebbins, and Chris Pennie

For reservations, please call 617-993-8080.

4) On Sunday, May 14, from 11:30am-3pm, Bar Boulud invites families of all sizes to spoil mom with a festive three-course Mother’s Day brunch created by Chef de Cuisine Michael Denk and Pastry Chef Robert Differ.

Featuring fresh, local ingredients that are guaranteed to make Mom swoon, Chef Denk’s Mother’s Day brunch menu will be served as follows:

To Share 
--Viennoiserie (selection of French pastries, Vermont creamery butter) Basket: $12
--East Coast Oysters (red wine mignonette, cocktail sauce) ½ Dozen $18; 1 Dozen $36
--Dégustation de Charcuterie (chef’s selection of pâtés and hams) $40
--Greek Yogurt Parfait (granola, rhubarb gelée, berries)
--Waldorf Salad (bibb lettuce, grapes, blue cheese, walnuts, bacon tuile)
--Pistou (artichoke, asparagus, peas, spring onion, basil pistou)
--Salmon Tartare (crème fraîche, dill, fava beans, rye, confit egg yolk)
add caviar: $10
--Pain Perdu (brioche French toast, caramelized bananas, malted milk Chantilly)
Main Course
--Coddled Eggs (jumbo asparagus, wild mushrooms, frisée, pomme rösti, sauce moutarde)
--Lobster Scramble (French-style scrambled eggs, tarragon, coral butter, brioche)
add caviar: $10
--Spring Risotto (wild mushrooms, green garlic, fiddlehead ferns, ricotta, preserved lemon)
--Pan-Seared Halibut (carrots, fava beans, Parisienne gnocchi, carrot broth)
--Yogurt Marinated Leg of Lamb (pearl couscous, bell peppers, housemade pita, natural jus)
--Vanilla Bean Cheesecake (lime-graham crust, strawberries, Grand Marnier Chantilly)
--Trois Level Chocolat (dark, milk and dulce chocolate mousse, chocolate biscuit, praline gelato)
--Citron Sundae (Meyer lemon sorbet, ginger croquant, raspberry compote, meringue)
--Asparagus $12
--Mushroom Fricassée $13
--Super Green Spinach $10
--Pomme Purée $10

COST: $65 per adult; $35 per child
To make a reservation please call 617-535-8800

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ten Reasons To Drink Georgian Wine

"Wine is the Georgians’ poetry and their folklore, their religion and their daily bread."
--For the Love of Wine: My Odyssey through the World's Most Ancient Wine Culture by Alice Feiring

The country of Georgia may be the birthplace of wine, with evidence stretching back about 8,000 years, which is why Georgians sometimes state they have 8,000 vintages of history. Georgia is located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, in the Southern Caucasus mountain range, which forms the northern border of the country. It is bordered on the west coast by the Black Sea, by Russia to the north and Turkey & Armenia to the south, with Azerbaijan to the south and east.

Wine is integral to the culture of Georgia and it can be illustrated by a comparison of U.S. and Georgian weddings. When planning for an American wedding, you commonly budget a 1/2 bottle of wine per guest. However, when planning for a Georgian wedding, they commonly budget 4 bottles of wine per guest, eight times as much wine as for American weddings.

Despite its lengthy history of wine, its modern wine industry is relatively young, still recovering from when the Soviet Union controlled the country. During those dark times, it was much more important to create quantity rather than quality, and numerous grapes were pulled out of the vineyards, to make room for grapes which could provide larger yields. Since attaining their independence, Georgian wines have been increasing in quality, honoring old techniques and traditions with the use of modern technologies. It is time now to start paying attention to their wines.

"Tradition says that the Georgians have always lived under threat; they must be sober enough to defend themselves at any time."
--Vintage: The Story of Wine by Hugh Johnson

Currently, Georgian wine exports to the U.S. are small, only about 24,500 cases but that number is growing each year, with double-digit growth recently. It might be difficult for you to find Georgian wines at your local wine store, but that is changing as Georgian wines acquire better distribution across the country. Ask your local wine store to carry some Georgian wines. Even a significant number of wine lovers haven't experienced many Georgian wines.

I first tasted a Georgian wine over nine years ago and at the last Boston Wine Expo, I tasted over 60 Georgian wines. I've been promoting and advocating for Georgian wines for years, especially during the last few years as the wines became more readily available. Let me provide you a list of ten reasons why you should explore Georgian wines, why you should seek out these compelling, intriguing and delicious wines. Be adventurous with your palate and drink some Georgian wines.

In no other country do the inhabitants drink so much, or such excellent wine.”
--Jean-Baptiste Chardin, referring to the country of Georgia in his ten-volume The Travels of Sir John Chardin (1786)

First, Georgian wine has a lengthy and fascinating history.
Wine making in Georgia extends back over 8000 years and almost no other country can boast of such a lengthy wine making history. Some even believe that the word "wine" is derived from the Georgian word "gvino" which means "wine." Georgian wines were renowned by both the ancient Greeks and Romans. In the 12th century, they established the first wine-making academy in the world. Some of their indigenous grapes also have a lengthy history, some thought to be at least 5,000 years old. Each sip of such a wine beings with it a sense of history, a connection to the ancient past. Taste the millennia in a glass of Georgia wine.

Second, Georgia has many unique, indigenous grapes.
There are over 525 indigenous grapes in Georgia, though there once was over 1000, with many lost over the centuries. Currently, only about 38 grapes are used for wine production. You'll find white grapes including Chinebuli, Kisi, Krakhuna, Mtsvane, Rkatsiteli, Tsitska, and Tsolikouri. You'll also find red grapes including Ojaleshi, Otskhanuri Sapere, Saperavi, Shavkapito, and Takveri. They present unique flavors and aromas, though still offering some familiarity. Any wine lover seeking to broaden their palate, to experience something new, should seek out such unusual grapes which may be found only in Georgian wines. I love exploring unusual grapes and Georgian wines allow me to further enhance my experiences. Yes, they grow some international grapes but why not pay attention to the unique, indigenous grapes that often cannot be found elsewhere.

"They clung to their ghvino (wine) with such a passion you’d think it was their blood."
--For the Love of Wine: My Odyssey through the World's Most Ancient Wine Culture by Alice Feiring 

Third, Georgian wines are diverse.
Georgian wineries produce a myriad of different wines, including White, Red, Sparkling, Rosé, Semi-Sweet, Dessert and Qvevri wines. These wines come in a wide variety of flavor profiles and styles so there should be something available to appeal to any personal preference. In addition, there are many different terroirs in Georgia, in 18 different appellations, which further leads to diversity in their wines. Georgia wines are multi-dimensional and there is much to discover in that multitude. No matter what kind of wine you enjoy, you should be able to find a Georgian wine that coincides with your favorite kind.

Four, Georgian wines are made for food.
Georgian wine is a natural pairing for food, possessing a versatility that extends into many cuisines. Georgians always drink wine with food so it is produced specifically to be accompanied by food. If you purchase a Georgian wine, you can be almost assured that it will pair well with some type of food. Dependent on the type of food, there is also probably a type of Georgia wine which will work well with that dish, from seafood to steak, pasta to chicken. You could have an easy drinking Saperavi with a burger or pizza, or enjoy a Qvevri Rkatsiteli with roast chicken.

"According to historian David Turashvili in his book His Majesty Georgian Wine, customarily Georgians would first ask about their neighbors’ vines and only then ask about their families."
--For the Love of Wine: My Odyssey through the World's Most Ancient Wine Culture by Alice Feiring

Fifth, Georgian wine culture is fascinating.
Wine is an integral component of Georgian culture, from the revelry of the rtveli, their grape harvest, to the supra, a traditional feast. At a supra, a tamada, a toastmaster, is selected to lead the evening, who will lead a multitude of toasts, maybe 20 or more, which will honor family and friends, events in the past, present and future, and much more. However, they space out the toasts so no one gets too intoxicated. Many Georgians grow their own vines, also making their own wines, and it is said that Georgians once would first ask about their neighbors’ vines and only then ask about their families. It is also said that Georgians drink wine to share emotion, such a powerful sentiment.

Six, there's good value in Georgian wines
As many wine lovers are concerned about price, Georgian wines should be appealing as you'll find a fair number of tasty wines for under $15, making them very affordable options. The fact Georgia wines are not as popular means they are more hidden value wines. Some wine regions, due to their popularity, raise their prices commensurately. In addition, as Georgia does not yet have a trophy wine culture, they do not produce a large amount of high-end wines, though I have tasted a some excellent, higher-end Georgian wines. Their value wines are an excellent entry to experience all that Georgian wine has to offer.

"The Georgian custom is to drain the wine bowl, then throw away the last drops. They are the number of your enemies. It is important not to have too many, but without any how can you be a real man?
--Vintage: The Story of Wine by Hugh Johnson

Seven, there are a growing number of natural wines in Georgia.
When Georgia attained independence, after the massive industrialization of the wine industry under Soviet control, a number of wineries reached back into their history, embracing more traditional wine methods. These methods tended to be more natural, avoiding chemical additives and over-manipulation. Some vineyards are now organic or Biodynamic too. Natural wines aren't necessarily better, but the natural wines coming out of Georgia tend to be very good. Maybe it is partially because of their lengthy history of making more natural wines.

Eight, the ancient Qvevri will intrigue your palate.
Qvevri are clay vessels used for wine fermentation and aging, and have existed for thousands of years in Georgia. They are commonly buried in the earth, to keep the wine cool and stable.  It is intriguing that the source of the clay can contribute its own terroir to the wine. The qvevri tend to darken the color of the wine, creating what some consider to be "orange wine," while also making them more tannic. Other countries have tried to emulate qvevri, using their own types of clay vessels. I find the taste of many qvevri wines to be fascinating, with an added complexity. It also adds a sense of history to these wines.

That was the end of life, but the qvevri is the beginning of life for wine,” he continued. “It is the womb.”
--For the Love of Wine: My Odyssey through the World's Most Ancient Wine Culture by Alice Fearing

Nine, nearly everyone will enjoy Georgian wines.
There is no reason why almost all consumers won't enjoy Georgian wines. These wines are often easy drinking, absent of strange and off-putting flavors, though some of the qvevri wines might not always appeal to the average consumer. At various tastings, I've witnessed numerous consumers take their first taste of a Georgian wines and seen the pleasure on their faces. The main reason Georgian wines don't sell as well as they should is due to unfamiliarity and ignorance. Most consumers, and many wine shop owners, know little about Georgian wines so they gravitate instead to what they already know. That can be overcome with greater education and more tastings. People need to be shown they are missing out on Georgian wines.

Ten, and most importantly, Georgian wines are quite delicious.
It is a simple thought but sometimes gets forgotten amidst everything else. In the end, the most significant aspect of ant wine is that it tastes good. No matter what else a wine has going for it, if it does not taste good then it has failed. I've enjoyed many tasty Georgian wines, certainly not everything I have tasted, but the vast majority at least. I may appreciate Georgian wines for many different reasons, but first and foremost, taste remains the most compelling reason to drink Georgian wines.

"What is called the traditional drinking cup or horn, kanzi, is conch-shaped and comes in different sizes, often decorated with silver. Because Georgians are famously hospitable people, an essential feature of the horn is that once filled with an appropriate libation, usually wine, it requires drinking to the bottom (bolomde) on each toast."
--Cuisines of the Caucasus Mountains: Recipes, Drinks, and Lore from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Russia by Kay Shaw Nelson

So, are you convinced to give Georgian wines a try?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Choosing a Wine Store

In two weeks, on Tuesday, May 9, The Passionate Foodie blog will have its 10th Anniversary! I've been spending time surveying the over 4100 posts I've written, contemplating all the myriad subjects I've covered. As I've looked back across those ten years, I decided to repost my first article yesterday. Today, I'm going to repost my second article, which actually was posted on the same day as my first article. It remains as relevant now as it did way back then. Look for more of my memories during the next couple weeks.

(The follow article was originally posted on December 12, 2007).

If you wish to just pick up a bottle of wine, something under $10, then almost any store would do. Any local package store, grocery store or wine shop could cater to that need. But, what if you desire more than that? What if you are looking for a good wine store, a place to buy some different wines, maybe a case or two? What are the factors that differentiate the good wine stores from the mediocre ones?

Price: One of the primary factors for many people is price. We all want a good bargain when making any purchase. And wine prices can vary, sometimes significantly from store to store. You can see the price for the same bottle vary from $1 to $20 dependent where you buy it. Some stores cater to less expensive wines, such as $15 and under. Other stores have a variety, with some less expensive wines but also a selection of pricier ones too. Much will depend on the type of wine you are seeking.

Bottle price alone is not always indicative of the expense of a store. Many stores offer discounts, such as 10-20%, for purchasing a case of wine. And usually that can be a mixed case. So, even though a store's prices may be a bit higher than another store, the case discount may even matters out. In addition, some places run regular sales where you can get bargains. There are also stores that run promotions where you earn points based on your purchases, providing special gifts once you have acquired a certain amount of points.

Selection: You generally want a store that has a diverse selection of wines. Who wants to see the same old wines all the time? Some stores specialize in certain wine regions. Others may sell wines from more unusual regions. A good selection will also include varied prices, from $10 to $100 bottles, something for everyone. Remember that there are literally thousands of wines available so no store can carry them all. But, do look for places that try to acquire a good variety of wines from a number of regions.

Service: You want friendly and helpful staff at a good store. They should have a good knowledge of wine and those they sell. They should be personable and not snooty and pretentious. They should make you feel welcome rather than nervous. They should offer suggestions and recommendations without being pushy. Good service can include being able to order wine for you if they do not carry what you want.

There are a number of other factors, of less importance, but which can enhance or detract from your wine buying experience.

Appearance: A good wine store is clean and should not have dust all over their wine bottles. Display racks should be easy to see the individual bottles and their prices. They might have note cards describing the wines, or providing ratings and reviews from wine magazines.

Tastings: A good wine store will hold free tastings where you can try some of their wines. This can help you decide on which wines you might like to buy. Many stores now have weekly tastings.

Extras: A good wine store will sell more than just wine. They might sell other alcoholic drinks, from beer to hard liquors. They might also sell various foods, such as cheeses, chocolates and sauces. This can make the wine store a better one-stop place to stock up for a festive evening.

Website/Email: A good wine store will have a website providing information about the store and any upcoming events. Some even may an email list that will keep you up to date on their events.

But, there is one factor which I think is the most important of all. Passion.

Passion: The best sign of a good wine store is the passion of the owner. You can see that passion in them when they help you, when they answer your questions and make suggestions. The owner clearly enjoys wine, and is sincere in desiring to spread that joy to others. You can see that passion in them when they help you, when they answer your questions and make suggestions. These are the store owners who will truly work at making a good store. They will take care to make your experience as fine as possible. Their passion will show in every aspect of their wine store, elevating them above the rest.

No one wine store will probably cater to all of your needs, especially selection-wise. So, it is beneficial to visit different wine stores, to see what wines they offer that other stores do not. Your favorite wine store might not stock Greek wines but another store might. Your favorite wine store might sell 12 different Oregon pinot noirs but you might be looking for an Oregon producer that your store does not sell. But, in the end, you will probably have one or two wine stores which you frequent often, those places which you feel are the best. And I am willing to bet that the owners of those places have a true passion for wine.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Rant: Which Wines Should You Drink?

In about two weeks, on Tuesday, May 9, The Passionate Foodie blog will have its 10th Anniversary! I've been spending time surveying the over 4100 posts I've written, contemplating all the myriad subjects I've covered. As I look back across those ten years, I've decided to repost my first article, a blog that remains as relevant now as it did way back then. And look for more of my memories during the next couple weeks.

(The follow article was originally posted on May 9, 2007).

You walk into the local wine store and are confronted with walls upon walls of bottles. Which wine should you buy?

You go to a fine restaurant and are confronted with a multi-page wine list. Which wine should you buy?

The popularity of wine continues to soar. There are literally thousands of different wines, from many different countries, available to the consumer. We are deluged with options. A typical liquor store stocks hundreds of different wines and a specialty wine shop might stock 1000 wines or more. Restaurant wine lists might contain as many as a few hundred selections. So, with these often bewildering choices, which wines should you drink?

There are numerous sources containing recommendations and ratings for many wines. Wine magazines such as Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Decanter. There are other magazines as well, not devoted solely to wine, that contain columns and articles on wine such as Gourmet and Esquire. Each year, several books are released with their annual wine recommendations. Many newspapers now contain weekly articles on wine. You can easily consult any of these reference works and choose an award-winning or highly rated wine. But, if you did so, you might take it home, drink a glass and find that you dislike the wine. Where did you go wrong? Why doesn’t the wine seem as good as the critics say it is supposed to be?

The answer is simple. Enjoying wine is very much a subjective activity. Sure, the critics can judge a wine by certain objective criteria. They can rate a wine in comparison to others. But, at its core, it is all about one’s own individual preferences, one’s own taste. You should drink wines that you enjoy drinking, whether they cost $5 or $500 a bottle. Red, white, sweet, dry, oaky, tannic, grassy, fruity. Drink what you like. Your tastes may vary drastically from the critics, but they are your tastes and they are not wrong. They are merely different. And they are what please you. And don’t we drink wine because it pleases us?

So, how do you know what type of wines you like? The primary method to determine your likes and dislikes is to taste different wines. Taste as many as you can. There are a plethora of diverse tastes in wines and you never know what might appeal to you. So, trying new wines might lead to a new favorite. Tastes can change over time so you might want to try wines again that you once did not like. You might be surprised with the results. Taste wines with and without food as food too can alter the taste and experience of a wine. Taste will also vary with your mood.

One of the best and often risk-free ways to taste a lot of different wines is to attend wine tastings at local liquor/wine stores. Because of the popularity of wine, many of these stores now hold wine tastings, often weekly, and they usually are free. On average, you can usually try 4-6 wines at these tastings, sometimes including some expensive ones. There are even tastings where you can try over 100 wines, all for free. There are some tastings that charge a fee but the fee is commonly low and you usually get to try numerous different wines. To find out about local tastings, simply ask at the liquor/wine stores you frequent or do an online search. Take advantage of these opportunities to learn about different wines, to see which ones you might enjoy. You have nothing to lose.

There are other ways to taste different wines as well. If you go to a restaurant, you can order a meal with wine pairings, where the restaurant matches different glasses of wine to different food courses. You thus get to taste about 3-7 different wines. Some places also have wine flights on their menu, where you get to try three different wines for the price of a single glass of wine. Obviously, the sample sizes are small, but combined they equal one glass of wine. If you go to a party, with various wines available, you should take a chance and try something different.

The hardest part sometimes is remembering what wines you like and do not like. Thus, it can be helpful to take notes, writing down wines you enjoy. That will make it easier if you go to a wine store and want to buy something you like. You can also ask the staff at the wine store for recommendations on wines that are similar to the ones you enjoy. In addition, it can help if you go to a restaurant. Even if they do not carry the particular wine you want, they might be able to recommend a wine that is very similar to the one you wanted.

So, should you just ignore all recommendations and ratings? No, as they can still be beneficial though the foundation remains individual taste. If you know what you like, recommendations and ratings can point you to similar wines of which you might not be aware. Or to avoid certain wines because they contain elements you dislike. For example, if you dislike oaky chardonnay, then a wine review that mentions a particular chardonnay is very oaky would be something to avoid. In addition, if you are adventurous, they might direct you to wines that you are willing to take a risk on and buy. You might also find that your tastes are similar to a particular reviewer or critic, and thus you might feel more comfortable with their recommendations.

In the end, taste some wine. Then taste some more.