I was talking to my non-wine drinking brother in-law about what topic I should tackle this week. He suggested I write about how to help a non-wine drinker become a wine drinker. I thought that sounded great. So here goes.
Why Do Some Folks Not Like Wine?
My brother in-law said that the taste of the alcohol is what turns him off. It’s too sharp, and he believes it prevents him from really tasting anything else in the wine. Other people grew up on beer or liquor and never developed a taste for wine. And there are more. People who don’t like what they consider to be an unpleasant aftertaste. People who have tasted only wines they didn’t like, so assume they won’t like any wine.
Creating a Wine Drinker
I told my brother in-law that I would like to lead him through several wine tastings to help him overcome his dislike of wine. I told him that there’s a huge analytical component of wine tasting. Since he’s a business person, I thought that would appeal to him.
I told him that when we taste a ripe blueberry or a great chocolate bar, we say YUM. But we rarely take the time to analyze the different components of what we’re tasting.
With wine, it’s critical to break down the components. Why? Because wine tasting is all about waking up your senses: sight, smell, taste and feel. And studying the different components can be a lot of fun.
What Does Sight Tell You?
What does seeing the wine tell us? For starters, is it a white, a red or a pink? Is it sparkling?
Going deeper, a wine drinker would look at the color of the wine: straw yellow, yellow/green, gray, yellow/gold or tawny. If yellow/gold, it’s likely that the wine saw oak while it aged (Chardonnay) or that it’s an elderly wine (wines turn more yellow as they age). If it’s yellow/green, it is likely that the wine is young and herbaceous with medium to high acidity (Sauvignon Blanc and Albariño). If the wine is tawny, it’s likely a port.
On the red side, you’d be looking for colors like purple, ruby, garnet and tawny. According to Canned Wine, “The complexities of red wines are expressed in their colours. Acidity, tannins, sulphites, and temperature are but some of the factors that have an impact on the colour of red wines. From higher acidity creating brighter reds, more tannins causing darker and more intense colour, to higher temperatures during fermentation and levels of sulphites leading to less colour.”
How Does Smell Factor In?
This is where it gets really fun. I would share an aroma wheel with my brother in-law and ask him to start in the center and pick the primary aromas he’s getting. I would then have him go farther out on the wheel to capture more specific aromas. What’s great about the aroma wheel is that it has things you would not normally think of – like cardboard. So, it really gets the creative juices flowing.
Is Taste the Name of the Game?
On the taste front, I would start by asking my brother in-law if he tastes what he smelled. If he does, great. But that rarely happens. You usually taste some of what you smelled, but other tastes arise. So, it’s fun to use the aroma wheel to try to get at the tastes. If he talks about only tasting alcohol, I would ask him to concentrate on the flavors listed in the tasting notes – one by one – to try to get a sense of those flavors in wine.
How About Feel?
Wine Tasting Demystified has a great article on wine mouthfeel. They highlight these words as pertaining to mouthfeel:
- Body – The weight of the wine in your mouth
- Viscosity – If viscosity is high, the wine is somewhat syrupy
- Astringency – Dry, puckery sensation typically experienced with red wines
- Burning/irritation – due to the alcohol irritating the trigeminal nerve
- Full-bodied and rich – typically for red wines
The Best Wines to Start with for a New Wine Drinker
Because my brother in-law is sensitive to the taste of alcohol, I would start with sweeter, lower-alcohol wines that lack the burn, bitterness and alcoholic taste that turn many people off to wine:
- White/Sparkling Wines: Muscat, Riesling, Sparkling
- Rosé Wines: I would look for a sweeter Rosé
- Red Wines: Grenache, Pinot Noir, Gamay
- Dessert Wines: Port
My favorite wine story about turning a non-wine drinker into a wine drinker is an old roommate of mine who would not touch red wine. By the time she moved out a year after moving in, she was in love with red wine. Woo hoo! I don’t know if I can turn all non-wine drinkers into wine drinkers, but I think I can at least get them to appreciate wine a little more.
Have you had any experience converting a non-wine drinker into a wine drinker? I’d love to hear your story.