How to be a wine connoisseur 101 |

How to be a wine connoisseur 101

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It may be tough to find a favorite wine among the more than 500 offered at Wine in the Pines this weekend. But, don’t be nervous – Megan Morgan, the sommelier at Ski Tip Lodge, has some good tips for wine novices about how to be a connoisseur.

“If you figure out the basics, you build on that every time you drink wine,” Morgan said. “Everybody, from a basic wine lover, knows what they prefer. And anybody who drinks it has a basic knowledge. All you have to do is go out and taste it and figure out what you like.”

So what goes into a wine tasting? People sample various wines and they try to recognize all the subtle flavor nuances. Yet remembering why one likes a certain wine and then finding it again at the local liquor store can be difficult, Morgan said. So bring a notebook and write down your favorite wines to order at a local liquor store.

According to Morgan, with 500-plus international wines at Wine in the Pines, she suggests sticking to only 10 – especially if samplers are actually drinking the wine, and not spitting it out.

“Imagine eating a bowl of ice cream, and then another one and another one,” Morgan said. “It just starts to taste like cold cream. It doesn’t stimulate the palette anymore.”

She also noted that one’s taste buds won’t react the same if one is affected by alcohol – “As soon as you put a little buzz on, you can’t tell the difference between wines in terms of remembering it,” she said.

If one wants to taste a wide range of wines, event founder and Dillon Ridge Liquors owner Mike Smith advises tasters to twirl the glass gently to get oxygen in there – the wine will open up and release the flavors.

“Then, stick your nose in it and smell it,” he said.

Smith and Morgan both recommended taking a small taste, swirling it around in your mouth, sucking in a little air so the aromas come out and then spitting it out.

“Really about 70 percent of what you’re tasting is really what you’re smelling,” she said. “That’s why you suck air over wine to smell it. … Everybody has different reactions to taste and feelings. If you’re really interesting in finding out about wines, bring a little notebook and take notes. Then you’ll know what you like the next time you go shopping.”

Smith also suggests visiting the chocolate table at Wine in the Pines – “Take a bite of chocolate and then take a sip of red wine,” he said. “They go wonderfully together.” And party-goers should try to pair wine with food.

If one is tasting extensively, Morgan said to start with sparkling and white wines, then move to light reds like pinot noir, and then to move to heavy reds, finishing with dessert wines.

“That will keep the palette from getting tired instantly,” she said.

A basic tasting glass will be used for comparing the wines. So, tasters won’t have to deal with using different shaped glasses.

“The only rule to tasting and drinking wine, is if you like it buy it and enjoy it,” Smith said.

People who are learning about wines, should do some research in terms of regional production, Morgan said.

“It’s fun to see what different regions produce,” she said, adding that there’s a basic split between “old world” and “new world” style wines.

Old world wines have been produced for over 3,000 years, when people thought the world was flat, Morgan said. This regional wines come from Europe, as well as Central and Western Asia.

New world wines are everything else – the Americans, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand.

“We don’t have a wine history that old world wines do,” Morgan said. New world wine producers are still finding their footing – like the best grapes in the best soil, what grapes are most appropriate for certain regions and ripening techniques.

For more information about wine tasting, visit

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