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Ten tips for wine newbies

  • Don't fill your cellar with the wines you like at the moment. The temptation may be strong to buy cases and half-cases, but I guarantee that your tastes will change, and then you'll be left with a cellar full of wines that, no matter how well rated by the critics, you won't feel like drinking.
  • For this reason, buy experimental bottles in preference to full cases. There are just so many wines out there, of so many different styles, that it makes sense to buy plenty of 'educational' bottles.
  • Attend as many tastings as you can. Taste and learn. But remember to spit!
  • Remember to take the opinions and advice of wine 'experts' with a pinch of salt. If any wine 'expert' is worth listening to, they'll be humble enough to acknowledge that they are fallible and that their expertise can by necessity only cover certain areas.
  • Don't fall into the trap of exclusively seeking out highly-rated or expensive wines. The temptation to do this can be strong, especially if you have plenty of disposable income. Instead, drink widely and build up a context from which to then fully appreciate the more stellar wines. You'll also find it easier to mould your own opinion.
  • Get good advice on what to try, either from a merchant who you trust, or from a critic whose palate seems to match with yours.
  • Keep notes on all the wines you try. At first you may not be very sure of what you are writing, but gradually your confidence will grow. It is also interesting to see how your perception of certain wines changes with experience!
  • Read as much as you can. There are many excellent reference works around: see my book reviews section for some tips.
  • If you get the chance, visit some wine country. There is nothing like visiting the vineyards where the grapes are grown -- putting wine in its natural context -- to bring a wine to life.
  • Finally, join an online wine discussion forum. In my opinion the Wine Lover's Discussion Group on Robin Garr's wine pages is the best, with its fully international flavour. Lurk for a while at first to get a feeling for the place, and then join in.