Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I'm a rather new wine enthusiast. I'm not trying to convert my beer-guzzling friends, but I like to pop a cork and share my stuff when we're together. But several of my friends continuously say all wine tastes the same. I know they don't think that, they're just intimidated by other wine snobs. I try to discuss each different bottle, variety, vintage, etc., but they still say the same thing. Any suggestions? Should I give up and just drink alone?
—Isaac, Belmar, N.J.
I have three suggestions. First off, you could take your friends to non-snobby wine events, like a tour at an unpretentious little family winery. (You can find plenty not far from you in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.) Sometimes the wine light bulb goes off for people when they get a sense of the history or stories behind the labels. And it might be good for them to hear about the wonders of wine from someone besides you.
My second suggestion is to really challenge their "all wines taste the same" thinking by opening different bottles of wine side by side, or ordering different glasses at a restaurant. Don't press too hard—just ask them which wine they like better, and then tell them which one you like better and why. One of my favorite ways to really open up someone's eyes is to show two wines made from the same grapes in the hands of different winemakers and from different regions. Say, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc vs. a French Sancerre, or an Australian Shiraz vs. something from the Rhône.
My third suggestion is just to keep your discussions in the context of beer. Most beer lovers have a favorite beer, even if they've never thought about exactly why they like it. Ask them to explain the difference between a pilsner and a stout, and then point out they're using some of the same descriptions that wine lovers do—texture, flavor and body. Maybe a beer tasting can segue into a wine tasting.
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