The Herald Bulletin

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Columns

January 26, 2013

Howard Hewitt: Trust a professional but go to tastings

Wine tasting sounds like something for wine snobs. Consumers who buy wine at groceries and liquor stores should do a little more wine tasting to expand their palate and knowledge.

Often novice wine drinkers shy away from tastings and wine events because of lack of knowledge. Still, human nature suggests that learning more on a topic increases the enjoyment.

There’s nothing wrong with buying your wine in the aforementioned retail outlets. But to increase knowledge and expand the palate a wine shop is the best next step for wine beginners or those who want to learn more.

“Go to a wine store where they have a person to help you,” said Dean Wilson, an Indiana distributor and former retailer. “A real wine person will educate you. Somebody in the retail market, who learns your palate, will guide you into other things to try.

“It is like Education 101, don’t be afraid to taste new things. Trust your wine professional and go to as many tastings as you can.”

Wilson suggested American consumers are actually hungry for wine knowledge. Sales figures over the past 15 years show significant increases in American wine consumption. And, there has never been a better time to try more and different wines.

“Consumers want a good deal,” Wilson said. “Consumers realize they don’t have to spend a lot of money on a bottle of wine. If they try something new and like it, then they can start trying different (price) levels of that wine.”

As a distributor, Wilson knows the wine market. He said the bulk of wine sales rests in the $9-$15 price range. The market “sweet spot” was just under $10 in the 1990s and then increased. The 2008 economic collapse dropped the sales point back below $10. Today, consumers are willing to pay $14-$15 a bottle.

You can expand your palate and education with a wine professional or a group of friends who enjoy wine. How many people do you wish to invite? Do you want wine education or enjoyment? Do you want to do specific wines or just have everyone bring a bottle?

You can make any wine event more fun by trying to pair wines with just the right food. Or have everyone bring 100 percent varietal wines in a brown bag and then try to guess the varietal. You could come up with geographical clues from the wine region to make the game even more fun.

If you have a friend who really knows wine or maybe you know a wine professional, give them a call. Most wine retailers, wholesalers, and wine journalists really enjoy sharing what they’ve learned from their experiences.

Drink wines at your normal price point. But maybe throw in one bottle of something special, and a little higher priced, near the end of your gathering.

“It’s like we tell our kids, ‘How do you know you won’t like it, if you don’t try it?” Wilson suggested. “That’s also true on wine.”

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, Ind., writes about wine every other week for 21 Midwestern newspapers. You can ask him questions at: hewitthoward@gmail.com.

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