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Expanding Your Wine Horizons

While the feeling of cozying up on your couch with a familiar glass is comforting, branching out to try new things rewards the exploring drinker. For one thing, one of the joys of drinking wine for me isn’t just the intoxication (though that ain’t bad), but the mindful experience that elevates wine to more than a beverage.

Does that sound totally hokey? I actually mean it. I’m talking about the fact that when I drink a wine, my mind begins racing: what part of the world does this come from? What do I taste in the wine? And with a patient palate, how will this wine evolve in my glass and my mouth? All of these questions, even without answers create a more pleasurable experience for me and each new variety or appellation offers the chance for a completely new take.

Moving away from the most popular grapes or regions also has a benefit to your wallet, as these wines offer some of the best values. Concetta’s question below is a perfect example of this.

Concetta Phillipps: The toughest part about choosing a wine is not knowing how to gamble on grapes I’ve not heard of before. What would be a good suggestion as to how to approach wines from grapes we’re not familiar with?

I love your adventurous spirit Concetta! Grapes you haven’t heard of can offer some of the wine world’s best values, so you are wise to be curious. A winery might pay 4x the price for Cabernet Sauvignon grapes versus a lesser-known grape like Grenache from the same vineyard. To reduce your risk, you might stay in the same region you usually enjoy to find similar styled wines, for instance if you enjoy a Central Coast Syrah you would really love this Lagrein we offered a while ago.

We also try to reduce your risk by offering you introductory pricing on the wines, which is one of the biggest reasons we like to offer great prices on our site. If a wine normally costs $50, that is a big investment but if you can try that bottle for $25 you might have the chance to fall in love.

We should also do a better job of comparing these grape varieties to more common ones to give you a frame of reference. Note taken.

Deanna Reister: For someone who is new to living in a wine region, how would you suggest starting to learn about wine? (as in best book to read)

Wine is geography, so grab an atlas first! Actually you can do the best of both worlds and grab The World Atlas of Wine. Geography tells you the climate the grapes are grown in which is one of the greatest determinants of a wine’s style. The warmer the region, the riper the wines and usually more alcohol and body can be found. Cooler regions usually produce wines with more acidity. Begin every wine tasting you do by looking up the region in your atlas and pay particular attention to the topography and any lakes or oceans nearby that will play a part.

Colleen Fanning (@foodPLUSfizz): What’s one thing you wish more people understood about #wine?”

There isn’t a wrong or a right answer to most wine questions. Is this wine good? Will this white wine be spoiled if I drink it with steak? Is it OK to drink red wine a little chilled?

I have suggestions for these, but I encourage you to be less worried about what is “right” and instead seek to understand what you will like. In fact the most important thing I try to teach folks in my wine classes is just to learn whether or not they will like a wine, NOT whether or not a wine is good. To illustrate this point I like to gather my wine friends together and ask them all a simple wine question like, “What goes better with pork, Riesling or Pinot Noir?” only to find a brewing disagreement. Even the experts don’t agree, so stop worrying about getting it wrong.

Mark Suss: When you read “even better on the second day” do you leave the bottle open or decanting overnight?

When we write this in our editorial, we mean that it is best if you leave the wine in the bottle just with a cork in it. If you have one of those fancy wine-preserving devices, the wine should last even longer so you might be able to wait 3-4 days. However, when I read that a wine is better on the second day I just speed up that process by doing exactly what you suggest and decanting it for at least two hours. Who can wait another day?