The more wines you taste, the more you will learn about wine.
As they say, “Practice makes perfect.” This is the most important thing you can do to learn about wine. This is your homework assignment. Stop in at a wine shop like Weimax Wines, K&L Wines, The Wine Club and the like. Ask the wine person to stock you up on a case of wine at reasonable prices. $20 or less to begin. Do half whites and half reds. I suggest you start with California wines. California wines are easiest to find, and almost all the California varietals originated in other countries. Maybe Zinfandel is California’s only heritage grape. When you taste wines, do this: Smell the wine, chew the wine, swallow and ponder it until all signs of the wine disappear from your palate and nose. By the way, use some good wine glasses whenever tasting wine. Take notes if you like. I use the Evernote App because I can take a photo and use the audio feature to record my thoughts.
Pascal Wagner, French Burgundy wine expert on how to taste wine
Taste and compare two or more wines
Moving on, how about opening two bottles of one varietal from different places, such as Napa Valley vs Paso Robles. Use two wine glasses and compare and contrast the differences in the two wines. Even though wines might be the same varietal, they may taste vastly different. Another good idea to try with white wines is to compare stainless steel wines to oak barrel-aged wines. This helps you learn about the influence of oak in wine. Chardonnay is the easiest choice for this activity. Ask your wine store person to help. Another interesting idea is to leave the red wines open and taste and compare them again a day later. Did things change in the wine?
Go to wine tastings
In the San Francisco area, there are several wine tastings each year. The Zinfandel Festival, Rhone Rangers, TAPAS, Family Wine Makers and others have major wine tasting events each year. You can spend 1 to 3 hours tasting wines. At these tastings, not only can you taste wine but also talk with the winemakers. Use a spit cup to avoid swallowing your wine. Here is how to use a spit cup and why. Local Wine Events is a Website which lists wine events in your area.
Go to wine country
In the San Francisco Bay Area, wine country is all around us. Within an hour’s drive, we have wine country at our finger tips. Take a tour at a winery to see how wine is made. Follow this up with tasting wine including whites, rosés, and reds at a few wineries. Use the tasting notes that the winery provides and add your own notes. Don’t forget about that designated driver. Here is a guide to the California wine country.
Find the right wine shop
In step one, I mentioned a good wine shop is your starting point for learning about wine. Besides the wine shop staff being able to help you with your wine selections, a good shop has much more to offer. Almost all good wine shops have regular wine tastings. Sign up and attend those every now and then. You can taste wines for a small fee and discuss it with other tasters and the wine shop staff. A good wine shop also has newsletters and an informative Website detailing information about each wine they sell.
Start or join a wine club
This has been the best activity I have participated in to learn more about wine. The opportunity to blind taste six wines of the same varietal at one sitting is a powerful learning activity. We have complete details on starting a wine tasting club and conducting a wine tasting. See this resource. Then go out and organize your wine tasting club.
Wine books are always good, as are wine magazines and wine blogs
These are at the bottom of my list but they are useful. Nothing works as well as good practice, but reading about wine gets you motivated. My favorite wine blog is this one. Big surprise! I also like Wine Country Getaways, another big surprise.