Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I've been a wine geek for over 40 years. For me, wine collecting and enjoyment is about value (price vs. quality). Our new daughter-in-law would like to learn more about wine. Should she start off with inexpensive wines first? Or even "bad" wines? Or would introducing her to the best benchmark wines give her a better frame of reference?

—Dr. Jimmy, Naples, Fla.

Dear Dr. Jimmy,

One of the wonderful things about wine is that it fits in my life whether I’m sitting at a white tablecloth in a fine restaurant or at a picnic table. Wine just helps make those times more memorable, whether it’s a first-growth Bordeaux or an inexpensive red blend I picked up at the grocery store.

Everyone’s wine journey is going to be different, and my best advice is to encourage her to taste as much as possible of whatever she has access to. One of my wine mentors told me years ago to make every taste count. That’s some of the best advice I’ve ever received. Which is why I think, especially for people just getting started, it’s important to keep some sort of record of what you’re trying and how you felt about it—otherwise all of those names can get jumbled in your head pretty quickly. I used to recommend keeping a wine journal, but pen and paper is … so old-fashioned. These days most folks, myself included, take photos of bottles of wine they are excited with on their phone. That's an easy way to go back and reference the bottles when you're ready to take some notes.

Ideally, all wine lovers would get the chance to try the classic benchmark wines—I’m still seeking some of those out in my personal journey. But if most of your daughter-in-law's wine tasting is with more affordable and widely available wines, that’s great too. I don’t think you have to seek out "bad" or flawed wines at the bad wine store (wherever that is), but sure, if you have a corked wine, it would be good to expose her to that so she knows what to look for. For many, one whiff of TCA is enough to imprint it into your memory.

Hopefully she’ll get a chance to attend a comparative tasting where she can try a handful of wines at the same time—that can be very eye opening! Same with blind tastings. I’m so glad that you’ll have a hobby to share with your new family member; the holidays are going to be plenty fun with the two of you sharing many a glass. You might want to consider getting her a subscription to her new favorite magazine, website or app, or send her my way if she has more questions!

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.