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If I have no idea about wine where should I start?

If I have no idea about wine where should I start?’, is a question I am often asked. With so many grape varieties, styles of wines, regions and countries to choose from finding out about wine can be overwhelming, so always ask questions.

We can divide wines into different styles: sweet wines, fruity wines, aromatic wines, light bodied wines, medium bodied wines, full bodied wines and sparking wines. Fairly straightforward so far.

Sparkling wines are not just for celebrations, you can enjoy them at any time and they are often a good way of getting into wine. To begin with try an off dry or semi sweet style and not the dry or brut styles tend to be more acidic.

Quite often our first experience of wine is tasting from our parent’s glass often mixed with gaseosa or lemonade. The key factor here is the sweetness, which is more palatable than the acidity or bitterness that as beginners we associate with wines. Adolescents first venture into wine is often with Lambrusco, again a wine style that is sweeter.

So begin with a sweeter style of wine, labelled as semi dry or sweet. You don’t need to spend much money, between €3 and €6. Spending more money is not a guarantee that you are going to enjoy the wine more.

By smelling and tasting different wines we condition our noses and palates and this takes practise. You palate will quickly tire of the sweetness and then it is time to move on to drier, fruitier wines. Most wines are dry, which means that the natural sugar in the grapes have been converted into alcohol. A good grape to try is Moscatel because wines made from this grape smell and taste like grapes making it quite easy and pleasant to drink.

Wines that are fruity, maybe with tropical fruit flavours or ripe strawberries and raspberries, can often have the sensation of sweetness, which is a stepping stone towards discovering more exciting wines.

The next factor the bear in mind is the body of the wine. Again as a beginner I suggest you look for light bodied wines, which are the most popular style of wines on the market. Grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo or Pinot Grigio typically make light bodied white wines.

There are many Rosé wines that fit into this category. There is nothing more pleasant that a light bodied Rosé served chilled. These wines tend to be both fruity and light bodied. Pinot Noir and Gamay are examples of light bodied red wines, most reds wine tend to be medium to full bodied.

The next stage is to taste wines that are medium to full bodied wines. These wines have more complexity and flavours, making them excellent wines to accompany food. White wines made from Chardonnay tend to be richer in flavour and medium to full bodied. The Garnacha and Merlot grapes often makes excellent medium bodied wines whereas Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Malbec, for example, are known for their fully bodied styles.

At some stage along your journey into wine you will be able to distinguish between the styles of wines and find the ones that you enjoy most. This is the ‘tipping point’ from being lost to knowing which direction to go in.

Written by

I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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