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I love wine. And I especially love wine with food!

But every time I talk to my friends about this, it is almost as if they get this haunted look in their eyes – and I know exactly why. This is a subject that gets me very hot under the collar. People go to wine tastings, hoping to finally get comfortable with choosing a wine to go with their food, only to meet some snooty “connoisseur” expounding on “hints of forest floor” in a particular wine. Words like “terroir”, malolactic fermentation”, “varietal”, etc. leaves them more lost than when they first attended.

The “connoisseur” will stick his snoot in the glass and start spouting words like “body”, “legs” and “floral notes”. All this is well and good if you are talking to an audience who has a lot of experience with wine. But for us who just want to have a good wine choice to enjoy with our food – all that jargon just intimidate us and make us feel stupid.

Here are a couple of things I wish connoisseurs would keep in mind. One – it is no use talking to me about “hints of forest floor” in a wine IF I HAVE NEVER SMELLED A FOREST FLOOR!! I would simply not know what you are talking about and will desperately be trying to smell deer poop or bear scat in the wine…. Two – my tongue is not your tongue. My taste experience can NEVER be the same as yours. My nose is not your nose – I will simply not detect hints of things I have never smelled before.

Here is my personal advice to my friends – Try wine, any wine!! Pour some in a glass (I will talk a little about the different shapes of wine glasses in another blog) and hold it up against the light. If the color pleases you – good!! Now – swirl the wine around a bit (this is not to make you look like you know what you are doing – it simply agitates the wine and releases more wine vapor for you to smell) and smell the wine. If the smell pleases you – good!! Now – tip the glass back and taste the wine. Forget about EVERYTHING you have ever heard or read about what you should be “detecting”, just taste the wine. If the taste pleases you – good!! In other words – if it looks good, smells good and tastes good, then, for you, THIS IS A GOOD WINE!! I could not care less what anybody else thinks of this particular wine, or whether it cost $9 or $90 for the bottle – if those three criteria please you, you have found a good wine. (Make a note of the name of the wine so you can choose it again!)

When you have found these three personal criteria in a wine, you can now turn the bottle around and read the vintner (fancy word for wine maker) notes on the back label. He will use “connoisseur” words there but ignore them. Look for words like peach, berry, etc. In other words, look for things that you have smelled/tasted before and will be able to recognize – and see if you can find them in the wine. It is fun to do – and it is what wine tastings should be about.

And this is where it starts – once you are able to relax around wine, you will find the true purpose of all these different wines. You see, wine is not about sounding like you were born in France with a wine cork as a pacifier. It is NOT about being a wine snob. Wine is about laughter, song and good times, in the company of good friends. Wine makes good times (and especially good food) better!

There – now that I got all of that off my chest, I can start talking to you about the very easy process of choosing one of the good wines you have found to go with your food. And, of course, I will be talking a lot about wine with meat dishes. After all – meat is what I am trying to sell!!

See you in the next “Food is Better with Wine” blog. In the meantime – try wine!!

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