Perhaps you have seen my new gig at the Village Voice as weekly wine columnist for Unscrewed. If not, here is my first post—ten tips for improving your personal wine program.
1. Be curious. There is no shame in learning, only in pretending to know what you don’t.
2. Order stuff you can’t pronounce. Or rather, don’t not order wine because you can’t eloquently articulate the name. I took Spanish, not French, and I certainly didn’t study Greek (Agiorgitiko: I can finally say this one–a-your-yay-teeko!) The sommelier and store clerk don’t give a crap if you mispronounce something and are more likely thrilled they can share their wine geekdom with someone.
3. Drink more white wine. Drink it in the winter. Drink it with meat (maybe not with a porterhouse). Whites can be amazingly complex or lovely for their simplicity. They are better for sipping than reds, which often need food to shine due to their tannins.
4. Treat yourself. Every now and then, spend a little more on your vino. I’ll be suggesting wonderful, inexpensive bottles here, but keep in mind that many small wineries that make interesting wines can’t afford to sell them to us for $9.99.
5. Don’t drink trendy wines. Just because celeb-driven restaurants and bars push certain brands at 20x wholesale (Hello, Whispering Angel?), doesn’t mean the wines are higher quality. Drink a wine because you like it.
6. Visit local wineries when you travel. This adds a fun dimension to your trip, gives you a local’s insight to the region — winemakers usually give great restaurant recs! — and you just might discover something tasty that you can’t find back home. Unless you are in New Jersey. They still haven’t figured out how to make tasty wine there. Sorry NJ!
7. Take a trip to the North Fork. We have wine country in our backyard, less than two hours away, and some of the wines are pretty darn good.
8. Taste a new varietal. Put down that Cab Sauv from California! How about Plavac Mali from Croatia? Hárslevelű from Hungary? Or something less challenging and easier to find, like Australian Riesling?
9. Try new regions. Italy alone produces hundreds of varietals beyond
Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. Tuscany is great, but so is Friuli. And Puglia. And Trentino-Alto Adige. Ask your favorite wine shop to help you on this quest.
10. Have fun! Wine isn’t meant to intimidate you. Even a Master of Wine can’t taste and recollect every wine in the world, so nobody expects you to either.