A Beginner’s Guide to Wine

The Internet can help build your palate


Wine is in a league of its own. It combines the inherent joys of alcohol with a veneer of sophistication, and when paired with the right food, conducts a symphony of flavor that dances across your taste buds.

“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.”
-Benjamin Franklin

However, the world of wine can seem obtuse and impenetrable. Refining your palate takes time, effort, experimentation, and money. There are endless variables that affect the final product, to the point that even within vineyards, each batch is different. And that’s just for the wine itself — pairing it with food is a whole other subject. It can be overwhelming for beginners.

Fortunately, the Internet can help get you started. Before you know it, you’ll be able to confidently pick and pair wines that suit your tastes — and your wallet.

Three Great Resources

How to Choose a Bottle of Wine — A Flowchart.
Source: NPR

Picking Wine: A Flowchart

NPR recently published a flowchart to guide you through the process of picking wine. While it doesn’t go into food pairings, there is some generally good advice here. Namely, go for a Cabernet if you’re broke, and a decadent California Pinot Noir if you want to indulge.

Hello Vino Screenshot.
Source; Hello Vino

Pairing Wine: There’s an App for That

Hello Vino is a free iPhone and Android app that takes the guesswork out of picking wine. It can recommend wines based on food pairings, special occasions, taste and variety. It also boasts a searchable database of wines, detailing flavor, pairings and price.

Selection from NakedWines.com
Photo by: Jay Rooney

Buying Wine: Drink Well and Do Good

Want to join a wine club, but don’t have the money, or scared you might not like what you get?

Try Naked Wines. Their mission is to support independent wineries, primarily through its Angel program. They offer great deals on wine cases, especially around holidays, and they have a robust user community to help steer you in the right direction.

Plus, you get to feel good about your purchase, knowing you’re supporting small, family-owned wineries.

The Last Drop

Votre Santé, Pinot Noir, Francis Ford Coppola.
Photo by: Jay Rooney

As you progress in your wine discovery, it’s important to remember to trust your own taste above all else. It’s easy to get caught up in hype, awards and price when picking a bottle, but ultimately, you’re the one drinking the wine. Your taste should be the final arbiter as to whether a wine is worthy of your time and investment.

If you like a $10 bottle that the critics disparage, there’s nothing wrong with that. As the tour guide at Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley Vineyards once told me, “every palate is different, and every palate is right.”

So go forth, have fun, and above all, enjoy yourself. Wine is the pinnacle of sensory satisfaction — savor every last drop.

“Every palate is different, and every palate is right.”
-Alexander Valley Vineyards Tour Guide

I’m always looking for new wines to try. Leave a comment with your recommendations, or tweet at us (@FoodConquest). I’m also looking for guest contributors to Culinary Conquistadors. Follow us, and submit a food post for your fellow foodies.