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How to appreciate wine like fine art

How to appreciate wine more

Person holding red wine glass
chay tessari/Unsplash / Unsplash

Wine appreciation is an open invitation to anybody interested in the stuff. Sure, collectors, sommeliers and winemakers may grab the headlines, but wine has always been — and will always be — made for the masses. And it does not take a degree in enology to appreciate wine (although, by all means, get that education if so inclined).

There are some accessible things average people can do to increase their appreciation of wine. These things range anywhere from online reading or a shift in perspective to taking part in a particular tasting experience or witnessing the process firsthand. The result is almost always holding wine nearer and dearer to your heart, which in turn maximizes enjoyment and may even spark a new hobby or passion project.

Read on for relatively easy ways to heighten your appreciation of all things wine.

Try a blind tasting

Varied wine glasses
Africa Studio/Adobe Stock / Adobe

Wine has long been wrapped up in psychology and outside acclaim. The best way to understand your palate is to silence all of that noise and take part in an authentic blind tasting. You can do this at a winery or conduct one yourself with some pals, brown-bagging bottles and tasting things side by side without reading into the price, producer, or other details of what’s being poured. Sure, you run the risk of preferring that $8 bottle over the $40 one, but who cares? This is about finding out what you like with no outside influence.

Witness or work a harvest

Frey Vineyards harvest.
Facebook/Frey Vineyards / Frey

Harvest is perennial go-time in the wine world, that roughly six-to-eight-week stretch in early fall when the grapes are picked and turned into wine. Witnessing the process is remarkable and can change your perspective on things. So much of what we ingest has been very manipulated and processed and given the factory floor treatment, but with wine, especially smaller producers, this is not the case. This is not to say there’s not tons of love and care poured into the process; it is one of the best things to observe. You can feel the energy and passion of the winemaking crew during this fruitful time of year. If you can, take it one step further and grab a harvest job. Many wineries need interns, and working the crush — whether you’re sorting fruit, monitoring fermentations, or cleaning barrels — will make you appreciate all of the details.

Take a vineyard tour

Red wine glass in vineyard
Grape Things / Pexels

If you’ve talked to a winemaker about their trade, you’ve probably heard them say that wine is made in the vineyard. This adage is quite true, as a wine is as good as the fruit that shows up. So many of wine’s remarkable traits are born in the soils, climate, and resident biodiversity of the vineyard. So go on, take a proper crash course in terroir and walk the rows of a vineyard. Many wineries offer guided vineyard tours and even if they’re not advertised, it’s worth asking about as you may be allowed to go on your own impromptu tour (so long as you respect the vines).

Absorb the history

Ancient Roman wine sign.
Flickr/Carole Raddato / Flickr

Humans have been making wine for thousands of years. There’s not much in the world of food that can put you down in time and place, like wine, as it represents not only the site where the fruit was grown but the year it was made. That said, to drink the stuff is a bit like time travel. But you can do even more, and throwing in some historical context will only add to your appreciation. Go Old World and read up on the ancient amphora wines of Georgia or Roman empire wine. Chat up with your local wine shop owner about their favorite wine history books and experiment with bottles from age-old wine regions like the Douro Valley in Portugal or the Mosel in Germany. You’ll soon realize that humans and wine have a deep and fascinating past.

Break the rules

Gratsi Wine box with dinner.
Gratsi

Fortunately, the latest winemaking generation is doing this for us by blending varietals once thought un-blendable and pairing wines with dishes in a daring fashion. Throw conventions out the window and figure it out for yourself. Does wine have to be in a proper glass? A bulbous vessel might improve the aromatics and bring the wine to temperature, but if you prefer a juice glass, go for it. Break the dusty old rules. Chill that red. Pair that white with something meaty. Seek out great sparkling wine in England and hybrid wines in the American Midwest. Drink wines out of boxes and cans. Just don’t wear a lot of fragrance while wine tasting, as you’ll mess up the experience for others.

Treat it like food

Table set with salads and wine
Stefan Johnson / Unsplash

While wine can be truly wondrous stuff, it’s important to remember that it’s still food. We can obsess and wax poetic over the stuff, but in the end, it’s fermented grapes. Which is not to discount the stuff, rather, the takeaway here is to take wine off of its high horse now and again. Wine should not be an elitist product reserved for the rich. Instead, it’s a food we should all enjoy and explore, created to be sipped in the company of others, preferable paired up with fellow foods.

Try older wines

Sherry wine bottles.
josemdelaa / Pixabay

We often forget that wine is meant to be aged (although do break that rule, as so many taste great young). Tasting a wine that’s come into its own after years of cellaring can be a special experience. Oftentimes, it’s what the winemaker intended, that ideal stretch where all the chemistry involved aligns and produces something magical for your senses.

Try an age-old pairing

Spread of wine, cheese, and grapes
penofoto.de/Adobe Stock / Adobe Stock

Pinot Noir and salmon. Merlot and steak. Muscadet and oysters. Some pairings are iconic for a reason and can really showcase the power of wine. When you try one of these, you realize that it’s a symbiotic relationship, has both the dish and wine are enhanced. That’s the power of pairing. And if these pairings feel too archaic, there are new classics being devised as we speak (Chardonnay and popcorn, Gamay Noir and turkey, etc.).

The learning never ends when it comes to wine. Check out our wine terminology guide and feature on wine tasting etiquette. We know, the rules should be broken but there’s also a lot of great context to have in your back pocket to appreciate the vast realm even more.

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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