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Deconstructing Wine, Vol. 1

“I don’t know anything about wine—I just know what I like.”

Anyone that hasn’t been frustrated, intimidated, or confused by the world of wine at some point… probably only drinks beer.

When I first got into wine, I had no idea what it was that I enjoyed about it. The only words in my vocabulary were “red” and “dry.” In fact, the only reason I got my first wine job was that my answer to the interview question, “What’s your favorite wine?” was “Malbec.” (As opposed to the more common answer, “Moscato.”)

The first few weeks of that job went fine… until I learned from Wine For Dummies that Malbec was a specific kind of grape—not a “style” of wine that anyone could make from generic red grapes picked up at Cub Foods.

It was at that moment that I knew I’d gotten in way over my head.

Times have changed and I know a few more grape names now, but a few questions have stuck with me from the very beginning: Why do I like certain wines and not others? What makes a certain variety of wine taste like it does? And most importantly, how do I talk about wine?

Do those hoity-toity wine critics seriously detect notes of “delicately spiced orange blossom” or “medium-rare steak over a charcoal flame” in their glass? And I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I want to discover “sweaty saddle leather” in my glass of Syrah. Every person has their own personal memory bank of aromas and flavors stored up, but translating those memories to a glass of wine can be tough.

It takes time, patience, practice, and effort, but it gets easier. How deep you get into your glass of wine is totally up to you, but being able to understand a little about what you’re drinking and why you like/dislike it takes a lot of anxiety out of wine buying, whether you’re faced with 30 glass pours on a restaurant wine list, or 3,000 bottles at your local wine shop.

Wine isn’t meant to be stressful. A little knowledge can go a long way. With the right set of vocabulary and a solid framework in which to better understand major types of wine, it all becomes insanely fun.

This series of “Deconstructing Wine” will give you tools, language, and practical advice to help you take the mystery and the awkward guesswork out of wine. We’ll cover major types of wine, including what makes them unique and why they’re important. Hopefully, you’ll be able to discover how your personal palate works and make sense of what you like and why. And the best part? The homework requires popping bottles.

Stay tuned for the first edition of “Deconstructing Wine,” featuring one of the world’s most noble and revered grapes!