I have a hard time describing the types of wines I enjoy. Any tips?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have a hard time describing the types of wines I enjoy. Any tips?

—Becky, Brighton, Mich.

Dear Becky,

Of course! First, go easy on yourself. Wine can be really overwhelming.

While I’d encourage you to read descriptors and even try to use them yourself at every chance you get, it’s easy to get tangled up in words you don’t understand or feel comfortable with. Rather, focus on the facts. Are there grapes or regions you are drawn to? Try conveying the categories you love, for instance, “I prefer Chardonnay to Sauvignon Blanc,” or “Chianti Classicos great,” or “I really love the wines of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley.” Tell a wine shop employee what bottle of wine you bought last, and if you’d like something similar or different. At a restaurant, point to a brand or region (or price point) you’ve tried before and say you’d like something like that. These are clear ways of communicating without getting into the descriptors.

If you’re not sure about your preferences, make sure you’re paying attention to the wines you’re drinking. Take photos or keep a journal of the wines you like and see if any patterns emerge. As one of my mentors told me early on, make every sip count.

—Dr. Vinny

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