ask dr. vinny

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.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Please help me "get into" wines. My wife enjoys them very much and I'd like to enjoy them as well, but all I can taste is the alcohol. I love to cook and I am always in the kitchen but never really drank much of anything. I am 32 now and I'd like to grow to love wine as my wife does.

—Craig, Dallas

Dear Craig,

For beginning wine lovers, I usually recommend wines sweet, cold, light and cheap. That is, sweeter wines—whether actual dessert wines or wines that just have sweet-tasting, ripe fruit flavors—are easier on the beginning palate than drier wines. Coldness is your friend, as chilling a wine well will tone down its alcoholic notes. Light-bodied wines are easier to swallow than heavy, tannic monsters. And most of all, starting with affordable wines is a good way to experiment and find out what kind of wines you like, from which grapes, regions and producers.

As you begin your adventure, I suggest you find a retailer you like. Start developing a relationship with the staff, so you can tell them, "I liked bottle A more than bottle B." Keep a journal to record the wines you try. Don't worry about the wine lingo, just write down the information on the label (the name of the wine, what grape it's made from and where it's from) and maybe a quick note about it, even if it's just "yuck" or "yum" or a reminder of what you had for dinner with that bottle. After a while, you can look back at your experiences and say, "Huh, I seem to really like Zinfandels," or "I don't think Merlot is for me." Happy hunting!

—Dr. Vinny


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