Finding Your Confidence in Wine

Wine can be overwhelming and intimidating. Before I began studying I had no clue how complex and exhausting wine could be. Besides simply learning for the sake of knowledge I have always wanted to gain confidence in wine-related situations that used to be intimidating.  With the help of guided studies, I have gained courage and have turned a new page in my wine adventure. I still have moments where I question myself, but I am proud of how far I have come and look forward to seeing where the rest of my journey leads.  To help you find your own confidence in wine here are 6 tips that will help you gain that self-assurance you’ve been searching for! 

1.     FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU – The key to confidence is believing and trusting in yourself. You don’t need to care about what others around you are doing or thinking! If you have made the decision to learn more about wine, you have already taken the first big step. It can be difficult to understand and absorb the nitty gritty details of the world of wine. So, what worked for me?  I learned on my journey that it is essential to give myself grace and not be overwhelmed. Some people can absorb knowledge quicker than others (cough cough, my husband!), but learning doesn’t come easy for everyone. I found that if you have the opportunity it is extremely valuable to travel to wine country.  Study maps of the region you’re traveling to and try to revisit that map at each winery you taste at. Tour vineyards, eat grapes, play with rocks, and get dirty. Talk to every tasting room associate or winemaker that you can to learn about what makes their wine special. You’ll gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the wine you enjoy and how unique it actually is.  At home read articles or take a wine course to continue to grow your knowledge. Go at your own pace, find what method of studying works for you, and drink all the wine!

2.     DRINK NEW WINES– This may be obvious, but it is important to occasionally put down your favorite bottle or grape variety and spread your wings! I consider myself extremely lucky to be living in California where I have access to some of the greatest wines in the world, but anyone can try new things. Next time you’re picking out wine, opt for a bottle from a new or unfamiliar region.  Whether it is from across the world or across the state, tasting new wines will help you better understand what you really enjoy. When you pop the cork and sip that glass of wine try not to just drink it, but spend some time exploring its nuances.  Try to figure out what you are tasting and smelling.  Is it the grape varietal, the region, the soils (terroir)? You can learn a lot about wine by just drinking it, but you won’t learn anything if you always drink the same thing.

3.     TAKE TASTING NOTES - It can be extremely beneficial to take tasting notes while you are drinking wine. There are many ways to do this, but I personally use the WSET tasting grid. I begin with the wine’s fruit flavors, followed by its floral notes, then vegetal, spice, and other.  Having structure to the way you taste is key to growth and gaining confidence. Find a system that works for you and get after it! (You can find the basic WSET tasting grid here)

4.     SIGN UP FOR A WINE COURSE – While it can be expensive, taking WSET courses has played a major role in my wine confidence.  I learned in detail about wine regions around the world; including what are each region’s popular grapes, how to read challenging labels, and how to make sense of confusing geography.  While I personally took WSET courses there are also many other great options. Wine Folly has done an excellent job at detailing these courses and I strongly recommend checking out their website to learn more. Remember, find what works for you!

Photo by Heather Daenitz

5.     FIND SOMEONE WHO SHARES THE SAME PASSION - I am so incredibly blessed to have a partner on my wine journey! Nathan and I have very different skill sets, which allows us to help each other learn by utilizing our strengths. If possible, find a person to share a bottle with that has a similar desire to grow their wine knowledge. If you don’t have someone in mind already, seek out local wine tastings to meet people who share your love for wine.  Having someone to sip and discuss with has taught me to communicate my thoughts in a clear and precise way. Nathan can be tough on me (and sometimes interrupts date night to talk in depth about a wine – haha!), but it has made me a better taster and for that I am thankful.

6.     NEVER STOP LEARNING – Don’t get complacent! It is important to constantly seek ways to grow in your knowledge. Learn from experts. There are tons of great resources online that can help you grow between glasses. Your journey will be challenging, but also so rewarding. Keep it up and keep your head held high!

There is freedom in your wine journey!