Don't care for wine...any suggestions to help me develop a taste for it?
January 25, 2014 11:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm a 57 year old woman who has never acquired a taste for wine. Maybe it's due to that Annie Green Springs incident back in high school (LOL). Anyway, I often feel odd woman out in social gatherings where everyone is sipping wine. Help me become a late in life wine snob. :)

My favorite alcohol is tequila, in margaritas or straight shots. I don't care for beer either so don't suggest that as an option.
posted by OkTwigs to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried many wines? I am not a big wine or beer fan either, but I have found that I can drink a mascato diasti. It is very very very sweet wine. If you can go to a wine tasting, that can be a great start to try various wines and as you get used to one wine it might make it easier to branch out to others.
posted by Jaelma24 at 11:59 AM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I suggest starting by trying a wine-like drink as an apéritif. Next time you're at a restaurant or bar, order a Lillet Blanc (there are other kinds of Lillet, so specify this one, the 'white' one) on ice with a slice of orange to drink with some light snacks or before a meal. This is an aperitif wine with muscat qualities that you might enjoy as a margarita drinker - especially if you have it with some salty almonds or something like that. Integrating it into your meal this way will demonstrate the role that wine plays in relation to food, and how it can be not the central aspect of the taste experience, but a complimentary flavor and counterpoint to other flavors.

This is somewhat in line with Jaelma24's suggestion though a departure because Lillet Blanc is sweet, but not quite that sweet.

Also drinking some wine as a Wine Spritzer, may be another way to introduce your palate to the aspects of wine you might enjoy. The key I think, is trying many different wines, in different contexts - so a wine sampling would be a good follow-up step.
posted by jardinier at 12:05 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

as an italian red guy, i would advise starting at chianti (many good bottles available $15-$20), then on to barbera, valpolicello, dolcetto, before you do the big boys, supertuscans, barolo, barbaresco and brunello di montalcino.
posted by bruce at 12:06 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

How are you drinking it? My wife went from preferring moscato to a full-on red wine fan when I told her to gulp it, like you would with hot coffee, instead of sipping it. If you don't get any air into your mouth all you taste is the bitter or sour aspects, especially with reds. Give it a try. You might also consider a tasting at a winery, if you have one nearby, to have a quick way of seeing what varieties of wine you might like.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:06 PM on January 25, 2014

I'm not much of a wine drinker, but have found that a riesling (a type of sweet white wine) is often a good approachable starting point.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:07 PM on January 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

You might try spritzers, half wine and half sprite...
posted by misspony at 12:09 PM on January 25, 2014

I agree with LobsterMitten. Try a sweet, mild riesling like Chateau Ste. Michelle. It's liked by my husband and a few friends who dislike wine.
posted by mzwz at 12:14 PM on January 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I often feel odd woman out in social gatherings where everyone is sipping wine. 

Have no such worry.

Having spent a significant amount of time in similar settings, there are considerable percentages that don't drink wine, and no one bats an eye. Life is too short.
posted by Kruger5 at 12:27 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Start with a rosé, maybe? It seems to have a less intense flavor that could ease you into liking other types.
posted by cosmicbeast at 12:42 PM on January 25, 2014

Are you trying these wines by themselves? The funny thing about us Americans is that unlike seemingly everywhere else in the world, it's not unusual for us to drink wine just by itself, rather than as an accompaniment to a meal. When I drink just a glass of wine without anything else, the experience is dramatically different than if I have it with a snack or a meal. Even having just a small piece of bread makes a huge difference.

So I would actually advise you to do the opposite of what everyone else is suggesting, and go find a nice restaurant with a tasting menu and order the wine pairing. You can go with a friend and split a pairing between you, if you're worried about finishing on your own.
posted by danny the boy at 12:42 PM on January 25, 2014

Take a class! I think learning to discern flavors will help you find wines you do like. There are wines that feature or balance tastes of cherry, chocolate, tobacco, sweet fruits and citrus-y ones, cinnamon, vanilla, spice, licorice, pepper, teas. You might educate your palate which will enhance your wine pleasure.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:02 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I came to wine late in life as well. I would always take a glass of whatever was offered and sip once or twice and then just hold it all night. I hated the taste of it.

Then one day someone offered me a truly fine glass of wine and it was all over. I'd been drinking all the wrong wines. Young California cabs that were too tannic, merlots that were too astringent and sauvignon blancs that had too much acidity. Turns out when you're willing to step up in price, even just a bit, it makes a real difference.

I'd suggest finding a full blown tasting where a range of wine prices are represented. Taste as much as you can, but be sure to spit so your palate doesn't get overwhelmed. Taste a little of every type of wine available to find something you like. Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier, pinot gris, riesling, sylvaner, vermentino, grenache blanc can often be found at major tastings. Reds you can commonly find include the stand by varietals like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, syrah, zinfandel, malbec, and on into more esoteric varieties like carmenere, mourvedre, petite sirah, and grenache.

But another great tip is to go to a wine bar with a great by the glass selection and sit at the bar and explain your situation and ask if you can taste a couple of different wines. Offer to pay for a glass if you must, but most wine bar bartenders would be happy to pour you a few sips to find something you like.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:12 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't enjoy wine and beer gives me an extremely unpleasant full feeling. What I do love is cider. Whole Foods or your local wine retailer should have a good selection. I'd skip the Angry Orchards and Woodchucks, maybe try something by Crispin or Fox Barrel if you like pear. My all time favorite is Etienne Dupont Brut de Normandie or their Cidre Organic.

I'm also with Kruger5, life is too short. If you don't like it, don't drink it.
posted by Requiax at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

Wow, great answers and suggestions! I tend to have tried it without any food or snack accompaniment. I can see how that would make a huge difference. Thank you so much...I now have some ideas of how and what to try. I've always been a bit nervous to try wine tasting, but now I'm excited to give it a try.
posted by OkTwigs at 1:37 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

You probably hate wine because you've never tried decent wine.

I would not start with moscato, lillet, or mixing wine with sprite (gross, and not what a white wine spritzer is). This is pretty much a recipe for continuing to hate wine. I adore wine and think lillet is revolting on its own.

I would also not go straight up the path to really intense high end wines, when you're not even sure if you like wine.

The main problem is that a lot of lower end wine is garbage.

Here's what I would do:

Go to a wine bar. Not a bar where Woodbridge Reserve Chardonnay is an option you can get. A wine bar. Ask for their menu of what they have by the glass. Go at a quiet time so you can sit at the bar and talk to the bartender.

Pick a wine. I would not get the cheapest thing they have, but I would also not get the most expensive thing they have. Something somewhere in the $7-9 per glass range is probably good, but again, if that's the lowest price of something don't get it.

Feel free to tell the bartender exactly what your situation is -- you've never had a wine you really like before and want to start getting a taste for it and trying different things. Usually bartenders in specialist places like this are good at picking an "entry level" thing based on hearing what you do like.

(Frankly, since you like margaritas, I would suggest a crisp white or possibly a sparkling wine. The first thing that came to mind was Vinho Verde, but Sauvignon Blanc is a wine you're more likely to run into on a run of the mill wine list.)

But ask the bartender. She's probably had hundreds of customers come in and say, "I don't really drink wine, where should I even start?"

So you will get a glass of what is mostly likely a high quality (but not overly complex) good representation of whichever type of wine you ended up ordering. Taste it and see what you think. Don't worry about tasting it in the Official Correct Snooty way. Right now you're just seeing if you like the way that it tastes. Don't gulp it like a soda, but otherwise you don't need to drink it in any special way.

It's perfectly OK if you don't like that particular thing. I think you ought to give the whole glass a chance, and really see if you enjoy it or not. Sometimes it can take time to really evaluate whether you like a particular wine, and in general I'd say that wine is somewhat of an acquired taste. You probably didn't adore the first margarita you ever had, unless it was mostly just a slushie with no alcohol in it. But, you know, if you take one sip and want to vomit, OK. It's perfectly alright not to like wine at all. And now you know, and you know it wasn't just because you only ever had shitty wine.

If you liked the wine, make a note of what type it is and pick up a bottle of that type next time you're buying. You shouldn't have to buy the exact same wine, but knowing what country and what grape or "style" of wine it is (Merlot, Chianti, Beaujolais, etc.) should set you in the right direction.

I would not buy anything cheaper than about $10/bottle until you know a little more about what you like, since ultra cheap wine is often actually just undrinkably terrible (and usually a poor example of the style). I mean, sometimes plonk is fine, but don't pick up a $6 bottle of Chardonnay and then assume you dislike Chardonnay because it was horrid. Most $6 Chardonnay is horrid.

If you liked the wine just OK, but think maybe it wasn't the right style for you, while you're in the wine bar you might want to do a tasting. Whether the bartender can just give you little tastes of what's currently open, or whether you need to order a Wine Flight -- however they do it there. Again, don't worry so much about the swirling and the nose and the legs and sniffing corks and all that. Just drink it and think about whether you like it or not. This is another place you may want to make a few notes of things you particularly liked, and keep an eye out for that basic style in the future.

If you really hated that glass of Prosecco the bartender recommended, it's perfectly OK to just not like wine. I don't really like most cocktails, and even if everyone else I'm out with is having a Martini or whatever, I'll order a glass of wine and not worry about what everyone else is doing.

TL;DR: Drink wine. Try to drink good examples of wines that are actually good. But keep it simple and focus on what YOU like.
posted by Sara C. at 1:38 PM on January 25, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'm a monster oenophile (wine-lover) and just like you, hadn't a clue about it until I lived with someone who had converted their basement into a wine cellar.

Start out by reading about wines- part of the allure to wine is the backstory. Do a quick survey of wines from regions you'd like to visit and enjoy sampling them as armchair travel.

Also, start with whites over reds to set your palate - I found it far easier to detect individual notes in Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs as I started out than if I dove into the more complex reds.

Go to wine stores in your area and ask the counter help or owners to give you a tour of the shop! That's one thing I did long before I even bought my first bottle. Any good wine store has a bunch of nerds behind the counter who LOVE folks like you. Attend tastings at the shops you enjoyed the first time. Buy a copy of Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast and read the reviews and see if the descriptions appeal to you.

Go to restaurants or wine bars also and bug the staff about what they like or recommend.

Try everything! Your taste buds will tell you what you like and don't like and then you can experiment with other producers, labels, regions, etc. I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU!
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 1:39 PM on January 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm in the same boat as you. My gateway to the wine world was Duplin County scuppernong wines. Yeah, go ahead and laugh.

One anniversary I confessed this to our waiter at the fancy little place we were at. He brought me a glass of something that left my Duplin County koolade in the dust. But it still had those scuppernongy notes in it.

Frankly the only way to get past the barriers is to try as many varieties as you can. Wines really do have all kinds of different flavors. Hie thee to a wine tasting!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:38 PM on January 25, 2014

There are a lot of useful ideas in here, but the thing that's still missing is that your feelings about wine aren't really about taste. Taste isn't really about taste. It's about association and experience.

You can drink the best or nicest, or least offensive or whatever glass and you may still not like wine - but if you come to build your own sense of how wine fits into food, into meals in courses - into both the world of apéritif and around different dishes - that will make wine a part of your palate.

I learned to enjoy wines as parts of multi-course meals with my family while living in Northern Europe as an exchange student when I was 15. Prior to that, I had tasted it repeatedly at family dinners in the US and hated it. Wine tastes like rotten something to just about everyone who drinks it, until it's associated with the right social and cultural aspects of your life - with memories, with people, with adventures, with great meals.

I would not go to any old bar or restaurant and get wine by the glass - you very well might not like what you're drinking simply because it has gone bad - which is incredibly common for wines served by the glass. If you do want to drink at a bar, go to a serious wine bar that isn't snobby, something along the lines of Terroir in NYC. And go to a tasting - go to vineyards. Do it with friends, lovers, sisters - and in interesting places. Gulping down a glass of wine isn't going to change how it tastes to you - your mind will need to change around the experience of the wine to change the taste. Try wine in different places - in cities, and in the country. Have you ever taken a bite of food, tasted it - and then stepped outside into cold clean winter air in the country and taken another bite? Because the flavor is completely different - taste is greatly about sense of smell, and environment has a lot to do with that. Food has a lot to do with it. This is actually why I suggest trying wine as a beverage paired with salty snacks in alternative forms, so you can start to appreciate how wine plays with different foods.
posted by jardinier at 9:27 PM on January 25, 2014

Also - I have to write in defense of Wine + 'Sprite' or Kalimotxo, which is one of many names for wine and coke. These kinds of drinks exist because people like them. Certain white wines on ice - or with some fruity soda - or reds with cola are amazingly refreshing in the summer. And it's folks in Spain and France who drink these and many other wine cocktails. They are much less snobby about wine, and that's one of the reasons they like wine more.

Don't be afraid to play around with things you do like - and use wine. There are great recipes out there for margaritas made with white wine. And like anything, how do you know you won't like it until you try it? And that's the point right? to drink something you enjoy.

Here's a fun list of a few to try.
posted by jardinier at 9:47 PM on January 25, 2014

This might not be helpful at the moment (the app is currently in beta and you need an access code to join), but there is a company local to me that has developed an app called Wine Ring. It is basically a dating site for you and wine. When you taste a wine, you find it on the app and rate it. Over time, Wing Ring analyzes your ratings and the different characteristics of the wines you're tasting and basically gains an understanding of your preferences, thus allowing it to make recommendations for you.

I don't know what their timeline is for full release, but it is an incredibly handy tool for someone trying to figure out what they like in the wine world. I use it every time I try something new.
posted by JimBJ9 at 2:11 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I didn't think I liked wine, but I started with baby steps, first by drinking things like super-sweet moscatos and mixed wine cocktails like sangria. I still wouldn't call myself a wine fan by any stretch, but now and then I'll enjoy a glass. I prefer sweet drinks though. Since you prefer sour/salty drinks, you might be better off starting with a nice red wine or something more substantial.

However, the key for me and learning to enjoy beer and less-sweet wines (which I'm still working on), was learning which drinks worked with each particular meals. One of my favorite local restaurants has wine and beer pairings for particular entrees on their menu. I think this could work very well for you. Some wines that I don't like and won't drink suddenly become much more interesting and tasty when served with food.
posted by PearlRose at 9:58 AM on January 27, 2014

There's nothing empirically wrong with something like Kalimoxto, but it's unlikely to turn someone around to enjoying wine who previously did not.

I'm decidedly unsnobby about wine, and I've drunk my share of plonk, dig sangria, have had and (sort of?) enjoyed Kalimoxto, etc. I don't think you have to be a wine snob to enjoy wine.

I do however, think that a lot of cheap wine in the US is poor quality, and that a lot of people who think they don't like wine just haven't ever experienced what wine is actually supposed to taste like. It's like introducing a roasted beet to someone who's only ever had the canned variety. Maybe you really just dislike beets, but there's a strong chance you've just never tried them the right way.
posted by Sara C. at 10:21 AM on January 27, 2014

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