The 3 Things You Really Need for Better Wine Appreciation

Vinted on February 25, 2009 binned in learning wine, wine eBook, wine products, zen wine

Actually, I lied.

doubleazonecom-easySince you will also need a decent corkscrew and a wine glass, you actually need five things to better appreciate wine.  But no more than five, and those last two are just enablers (as we say in my office).

But first, a bit of preamble (as we also say in my office)…

When I tell people that one of my jobs is related to wine, they give me a strange look.  It’s the same look they give me whenever it comes up in conversation that one of my other jobs is as a musician (oddly, I receive very few disparaging comments on the fact that playing rock music and drinking comprise a contribution to my income).

It is not a look of admiration.

It’s more like the look I imagine that people would give the embalmed and glowing remains of an alien corpse if it was discovered on this planet and then put on display somewhere.  A look that says, “Hmmm… you are strange and perhaps you possess some strange powers that I do not understand…

But there is nothing strange, magical, or otherworldly about wine appreciation (or playing music – ok, playing music is strange but that has more to do with most club owners being weirdos).

Why wine appreciation has been put on a pedestal is beyond me.  I understand how it happened (a great write-up of which was the topic of a recent post by Alder Yarrow over at the excellent  But I will never understand why it happened.

warehousecarlhcom-alien_autopsy_2It’s a myth that is perpetuated by many of the established wine magazines and some of their wine critic staff, because, like credit card companies finding suckers who are already in debt as potential new customers, or fake alien autopsy videos looking for true believers, it makes them money.

In fact, I can tell you from first-hand experience that wine appreciation is actually pretty easy. Look at me – I did it, and… well, you tell me: do you think I’m the smartest guy you know?

Didn’t think so.

If it helps, before you jump in and start buying vino by the case, just spend a day telling yourself that wine appreciation is NOT hard – in fact, it’s easy and natural.  I’ve done this before starting anything that I’d previously convinced myself was “too hard” to try.  Works like a charm (but maybe I’m just self-gullible?).

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase.

The 3 Things You Really Need (To Do) for Better Wine Appreciation:

  1. Taste.  A lot.
    No secret or mystic initiation rites here.  Just start tasting. Buy a bottle and taste.  There is no prep. work required.  Just do it.

    Yes, it’s that simple.

    Look at it this way – how else would you try anything new?  If I served you a dinner dish that you’d never had before, would you need to do any prep. work before you tried it to see if you liked it (or didn’t like it)?  The idea is totally preposterous.  If buying wine frightens you, then buy online from any of the great retailers that advertise on this blog – they’ll help you find something decent in your price range. The important thing to note here is that you have nothing to fear by jumping right in and tasting.

  2. Note what you like – and what you don’t like.
    This is easy as well.  When you taste a wine, write it down.  Pay special attention to what you like in the taste of that wine (remember, we’re tasting here, not guzzling), and what you don’t like.

    This will help you to do two important things: a) learn what floats your boat about certain wines so you can enjoy more like those, and b) learn what you want to avoid in certain wines because you don’t like those tastes.  For example, I don’t like mushrooms.  In fact, I hate mushrooms.  It’s fungus, for gods’ sake.  Or cream.  Don’t lke cream either – turns my digestive system totally inside out (whoops… TMI…).  Cream of mushroom soup is right out.  How do I know I want to avoid those tastes?  Because I tried them, didn’t like them, and I’ve got a mental note about that which helps me to avoid unpleasant culinary situations in the future.  Easy.  Wine is no different.

    If it helps, follow a system (I’ve outlined a simple one in my eBook).

  3. wkuedu-brain_dumpCome with an open mind.
    Here’s a question for you: would you eat only one thing every day for the rest of your life, if you had any choice in the matter? Would you eat nothing but steak?  Or wear only red clothing, forever, until you died?

    Probably not.  But if you limit yourself to drinking only one kind of wine (say, for example, oak-ladden and buttery Chardonnays), you are basically doing the exact same thing. There is a dizzying array of wine varietals, regions, styles, brands, etc., to be had in today’s marketplace.  Don’t handcuff yourself by limiting the enjoyment and pleasure you could have – your motto here should be “try anything at least once.”

There you have it.

Wine Appreciation = Super Simple. No go out there and enjoy yourself!

Check out more articles on Learning Wine & Zen Wine Appreciation.






  • Marco Montez

    Joe! Excellent post. This notion that wine has to be learned before it can be enjoyed is ridiculous. By enjoyment I mean the simple act of sitting at a table and drinking it for dinner, or even just sipping it while talking to friends. Off course if one wants to take it further, education certainly helps. However, every week I come across people at my winery that tell me that they shy away from wine because “I don’t know anything about wine”. My answer is always that they don’t have to know wine to start drinking wine. Just give it a try and don’t worry about identifying its flavors or knowing how it’s made. If people really get into it, sooner or later they’ll seek out information and begin learning more about wine. But to make the notion of wine knowledge a requirement to enter the world of wine drinking is a barrier that must be removed. Again, great post.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Marco. Great winery blog, by the way!

  • Steve Heimoff

    "It’s a myth that is perpetuated by many of the established wine magazines and some of their wine critic staff"
    You talkin to me?

    • 1WineDude

      Hey Steve (or should I say, Steve "Da Bronx" Heimoff?) – not you, my friend. But I will stop short of naming names.

  • Dave Yuhas

    If I followed the advice in this post, I'd taste a lot of wine and not know a thing about what I was tasting other than the color.

    I've been educating myself about wine since my first taste of a St Emilion in the late 70's. Educating yourself about wine takes work, persistence and money. And I've been lucky to live near Napa and Sonoma where I could talk to knowledgeable people about wine.

    • 1WineDude

      Hello Dave – thanks for the comment. With all due respect to the time you've spent educating yourself about wine, I think we are talking about two very different (but related) topics.

      Tasting wine to discover what flavors you do and don't like – which in my view is absolutely the key for 80% (maybe more) of people in terms of having them make a step change in their enjoyment of wine – doesn't require work or a large degree of money. It does require persistence, but maybe not in the way that you imply.

      If I had to learn cooking from Thomas Keller before I tried and enjoyed the art of cooking, to some degree, in my own life, well I'd be waiting a loooooong time before I tried to cook. Approaching the appreciation of wine is no different.

      No doubt there is heightened pleasure to be found in the deep education of wine – how it's made, what various regions and varietals have to offer, how to make sure you're not getting screwed over on an expensive bottle – these are great things, fantastic things, and my life has been enriched by them in ways that I can't adequately measure or explain.

      But that's true of any endeavor that we decide to delve into beyond the superficial level. The fact is that we all start at that level – and shouldn't be afraid to start at that level.

  • mydailywine

    Congrats Joe. Awesome new site!
    Great info for the wine lover. Down to earth and informative.
    cheers, Amy

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Amy!

  • tom_merle


    I join those supporting your observations on the joys of tasting/imbibing wine. You've successfully demarcated the difference between ~appreciation,~ which is largely a senuous experience, and ~education~ which is mental or intellectual. One can swoon to a Bach sonata and know nothing about how a sonata is crafted. That there is pleasure derived from such knowledge is certainly true, but it is extraneous to the more central–and one might say, more intense–aural pleasure.


    P.S. You should have made the short list on the wine blog awards.

  • Pascal

    Looks like sound advice to me. Experimenting with new wine if part of the fun. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn more about what you don't like.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Pascal. And sometimes… you re-gift as well! :)

  • 1WineDude

    Thanks, Tom – now, you see, you've gone and eloquently stated in about 30 words what takes me about 750 to explain…

    Anyway, regarding the AWBA – thanks for your thoughts, they do mean a lot. I'm happy for the finalists, very deserving blogs in there, and I'm not too bothered by not being included. I look at it this way: the band Rush is in the top 5 rock artists in gold & platinum record sales ever (in the same company as the Beatles, Stones, etc.), and they never won a Grammy, you know what I'm saying? Cheers!

  • joeshico

    Great post. Have always purchased at least three wines I have never had when filling my rack. It took me many years to start doing this. Now, late in life, I realize what I have missed. In the past 5 or 6 years I have enjoyed more wines from more countries than I could have ever imagined and found so many great wines. Tasting all these different wines gave me an appreciation for all wines. An appreciation I never had before.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks! If there is one thing I learned from King Lear, it's that it's never too late for anything!

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