If you're serious about learning to appreciate and taste wine properly, I couldn't recommend James Suckling's Masterclass more:
It's definitely easier to go new world for inexperienced wine drinkers. Something like a Sonoma Pinot, Napa Valley Sauv Blanc and/or Merlot, and maybe a fun complex Riesling from wherever.
Of course if you wanted to be more interesting, there's some awesome American Oak Zinfandels here in the valley (check out the Lamborn Family Zinfandel). I'd definitely recommend a nice jammy Syrah to do as well.
Though in reality, enjoying wine is more about who you're with and how you feel. You can have a bottle of the best wine in the world and I promise you won't enjoy it if you're in a bad mood. Just have fun, and so will they.
Table of Contents
Any serious wine conossieurs will likely be fairly offended by some of these notes. It's a seminar aimed at giving beginners enough confidence to feature wine to uninformed guests, not a prep sheet for a sommelier test.
The Basics of Wine:
Varietal, Vintage & Winery
Varietal: Type of grape. Vintage: Year grapes were picked. Winery: Who made it.
Old World vs New World
Old World: Spain, Italy & France. Protected regional names, standards & practices (i.e.. Champagne). New World: Everywhere else. Some NW adopting OW protective standards (i.e.. Napa Cab)
Dry vs Off-Dry
Dry: Lack of sweetness. Low sugar content.
Off-Dry: Sweeter wines (i.e.. Riesling). “Sweet” is faux-pas. Creates negative connotations. Sweet: Port or Ice Wines.
Tannins: What & Why?
What: Grape skins, seeds & stems. Why: Create bitter flavour, makes your mouth pucker. Provides coloring for Red wines. Cause sediment in older reds.
Naturally occurring preservatives in wine. Creates crisp, refreshing flavours. Makes mouth water (take a sip, close mouth, tilt head forward. If saliva starts to pool in front of mouth it has high acidity).
Red vs White Wine
Red: Specific Varietals. Colour is created by fermenting wine with tannins. White: Specific Varietals. Separated from tannins before fermentation. Generally steel cask aged.
Brings out the flavors in a wine - smells (called Nose) & taste. Some benefit more than others - typically Reds. Decanting is excellent for this. Corking also affects this. Corks allow some air in while wine is bottled. Caps are air-tight.
Aging: Steel vs Oak Barrel
Oak: Common for Reds. Allows air in, imparts flavours from barrel into wine. Vanilla, spice and butter flavors )amongst many others - varies depending on type of wood used, age of wood, region, etc.). Steel: Does not affect flavor. Air-tight. More common for whites.
Viscosity or Thickness of the Wine
Weight or Mouth Feel of wine (i.e.. drinking Skim Milk vs. Cream). Light: Riesling & Pinot Noir (Skim) Medium: Pinot Gris & Malbec (1%) Full: Chardonnay & Cab Sauv/Shiraz (Homo)
Streaks on side of glass. Can see liquor content & body. High alcohol & full body = syrup-like legs.
Can sometimes be seen in legs. Shiraz/Syrah typically have high alcohol content. Big, juicy grapes - so during fermentation sugar converts to alcohol, resulting in big flavor, high alcohol content. Ports: Has Brandy added to it. Kills yeast, protects sweetness, fortifies against spoiling. Ice Wine: Not fermented long enough to develop high alcohol content.
9 out of 10 wine "experts" don't know anything. They learned everything they know about wine, including their opinions on what they like, from that movie "Sideways".
I would strongly recommend you spend some time with Wikipedia looking up red wine varietals. Start with Merlot, Pinot noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet franc then follow the links from those about growing the grapes, different characteristics of each varietal, how each varietal varies from wine production region to region, etc.
Wine for normal people is a great, understandable podcast. It has a nice balance of science, history, culture, geography and obviously wine terms and characteristics. Ive been bouncing around the past episodes and new episodes while I work out
Do plan your trip. Wineries and tasting rooms literally come in all shapes and sizes. There are some "destination" wineries that are more about the sights and experience than about the wine. Some have huge gift stores, deli counters, gondolas or restaurants. And then some are just about the wine. Sometimes the guy pouring the wine is the dude who made it. Before you and your date or your (small or large) group of friends decide to embark into a wine tasting adventure, make sure the tasting rooms you're thinking about hitting match your desired experience. Some are a small room inside the winemaking facilities or in the family home, open only by appointment. Some charge for a tasting, some (usually in less touristy areas) don't. Some will waive the tasting fee if you buy a bottle - some won't. Some are retail spaces on a busy street, completely independent from the winery. Some are large buildings with event spaces. Some cater to frat boys and bachelorette parties - many don't. Some are dog-friendly, and some are definitely not. Not sure about what a winery's website or Yelp page are telling you? Call the winery. Especially if you are a large (8+) group - there's a reason some wineries have a "No Limo or Bus" sign - many of those groups are associated with loud, obnoxious gaggles of assholes who are just there to get buzzed, and buy very little wine. However, some places do cater those groups. Just make sure you plan your trip right.
Do abstain from wearing perfume/cologne or lipstick. Perfume gets in the way of the tasting experience. Plus, as a general rule, if anyone can smell you within 3 feet, it probably means you're wearing too much of it. Lipstick on the rim of a wine glass is bad enough at a restaurant - in a winery tasting room, it's downright tacky.
Do not hold the bottle - to check the back label, for instance - unless you ask the staff first. Please never touch the mouth, cap, spout or cork of said bottle.
Do stay the fuck home if you have a cold. I can't believe the amount of people who not only show up with a cold, but have the nerve to tell me about it, complaining how their senses of smell and taste are affected. Keep your germs to yourself.
Do tip if you feel like it. Tipping is not customary, but always appreciated. The only reason you don't see tip jars in tasting rooms is because traditionally, family members would man the tasting rooms. That's no longer the case in most places. While tasting room staff makes more than most restaurant staff (above minimum wage), tips are always appreciated, especially if you feel the employee was informative, friendly, courteous, and/or helped carry your wine purchase to your vehicle.
Don’t ask to share a glass. If you can't afford a tasting fee for each of you, you probably can't afford to buy wine. This ain’t a 10-inch crème brûlée I’m bringing you guys, with two spoons to share after a decadent dinner. Plus, most of you sharing a glass are blabbing away, not keeping up with what you’re tasting, and forcing me to make sure you have both tasted the wine before I pour you the next one. So stop tasting each other’s saliva. Get each your own glass.
Don't be a know-it-all. Chances are you will lose at this game - either by being schooled, or by looking like a pretentious jackass. Don't ask us tasting room staff overly technical questions like the bottling pH of a wine, or what commercial yeast was used. We might know the answer, but we're not the winemakers. Then again, be careful - in some small wineries or at special events, the guy pouring the wine might have had a hand in making it, and could embarrass you if you try showing off. Just be reasonable with your questions. If you really want to know the numbers about a specific wine, chances are there's a technical sheet in front of you with all the answers - or maybe it's on the winery's website. Just enjoy the wine. We can probably tell you the essentials - where the fruit comes from, how long it was in the barrels, etc., and help you out with your tasting experience. But don't try impressing your date by asking us tricky or overly technical questions. Even professional winemakers don't do that in tasting rooms - they'll go ask the winemaker himself.
Do try being in sync with your friends and you're in a group or a couple doing the same flight or number of wines. Sometimes one group member is constantly lagging behind, still sipping their first wine while the other ones are two tastings further. This makes our job a lot more difficult, because we now have to keep track of which wine is next for you, or how many more pours you have. I'm good at this, but I also have to keep up with the rest of the room, ring orders, and all sorts of other tasks. I want you to enjoy yourself, but keep up with your friends. You don't have to finish that wine if you are not really enjoying it - just pour it out, so you can try the next.
Do follow the suggested tasting order. There's a reason we order the wines that way - white to red, dry to sweet, light to full-bodied. We can explain to you why. But don't argue about it. Don't go back three wines up - your tasting experience will be ruined. Just trust us on that one. We truly want you to have an optimal tasting experience, because that's how we sell wine.
Don’t ask us if our wines are sulfite-free. Over 99.9% of all wines on the market - from the low to the high end - contain sulfites. I often hear people tell me European wines don't have sulfites, or not as much. That's utter bullshit. This myth probably comes from the fact that there are no mandatory "This wine contains sulfites" warning labels on wine bottles in Europe. Trust me, if a winery makes sulfite-free wines, you'll know it - they'll advertise it everywhere. And come on - don't tell us you’re allergic to sulfites when really you’re just a lightweight. The irony is that imaginary sulfite sufferers often will stick to white wines, convinced the content of that sulfur dioxide byproduct is lighter. But it’s the other way around. Whites generally contain more sulfites than reds, because as a rule, they require more SO2 during the winemaking. And sulfites occur naturally to begin with. In reality, only 1% of the population is sensitive to sulfites to some level. You’re most likely not that special snowflake, unless you have been tested positive for it (and you should if you suspect you are, instead of self-diagnosing). Sulfites are probably not what caused your headache the day after you emptied those bottles of Zinfandel with your pack of cougars. That migraine is just called a hangover.
Don't ask for discounts you're not entitled to. The inter-winery discount is real. But it only applies to employees of other wineries. If you're a grower, a restaurateur or work for a distributor, we might not offer you a discount, because why would we? The inter-winery discount makes sense because it's reciprocal - I go to another winery, and they give me a discount on my purchases (and usually waive tasting fees). But if you're a grower, what kind of discount are you going to offer me? Are you really going to give me a 30% discount on your grapes if I decide to buy them? If you have a restaurant, are you going to give me the same deal on my tab? I don't think so. So don't be an asshole about it. Most of us only give discounts to winery employees, or in some cases employees of businesses we do business with.
Don't haggle on prices. It's gross. Oddly enough, in my experience it's people who seem quite well off who are the most likely to do this. We might give you an additional discount if you buy a case or more, but this ain't a Moroccan market. See those prices on the list? That's it. You drove an Audi to the tasting room and you're wearing a Ralph Lauren dress. You can splurge for that $35 Cab you claimed to really like. Want a discount? Join the wine club. You can afford it, right?
Do be respectful. Avoid saying "This wine is so much better than the previous one". Maybe you meant to say "I like this wine much better than the previous one", in which case what you should probably say is simply "I really like this wine". Even my 8-year old understands this. Reason is, it's possible that the guy who made the wine you didn't like is right there - he might even be the guy who poured the wine in your glass. So show some respect - you wouldn't trash a dish in front of the chef unless it was horrible, now would you? Plus, in my experience, the folks who tend to make that etiquette faux pas also don't know much about wine. But really, it's probably because their taste buds are not tuned up for certain wines. So unless you're comparing say, two Cabs from different vineyards or from different vintages, it doesn't make much sense.
Don't rinse your glass with water between wines. It will corrupt the acidity level of the wine we pour next, and completely change its taste. If you want to cleanse your palate, we'll be happy in some places to provide you with a cup or another glass with water. If the next wine is radically different, we'll rinse it with a bit of the wine we're about to pour first, or we'll give you a brand new glass. So as a general rule, don't pour water in your tasting glass. Just trust us on that one.
Don't ask us for bigger pours. Most tasting rooms use spouts that pour given amounts - 1/2, 3/4, 1 or 2 ounces, for instance. Others have trained staff that will pour without those but still deliver the desired amount. Whichever the situation, don't ask us for a larger quantity. And for Dionysus' sake, do not help yourself to an extra pour directly from the bottle sitting in front of you, like some asshole did right in front of me recently, arguing that in a bar, if a bottle is sitting on the counter, it's fair game. "This is not a bar", I told him. (Guy brought up his Southern heritage like it was some sort of excuse. He redeemed himself later with a $10 tip.)
Do spit if you want to pace yourself. It's not gross to spit your wine in the designated container. In fact, that's how pros do it. If you're a lightweight or are driving, learn to do it properly. You can smell and taste a wine without swallowing it. Most wineries have buckets or spitoons to spit in, or will provide you with a plastic or paper cup. If they don't have a container at the ready, please don't hesitate to ask for a bucket or a cup - we'll know exactly what you're asking for. Make sure you put the container all the way to your mouth when you spit - making sure people can't see the liquid come out of your mouth. But etiquette-wise, spitting is perfectly acceptable - and in fact recommended if you're going to be hitting a few wineries that day, or if you're serious about your experience.
Don't ever be afraid of asking newbie questions. Ever. If you're at a winery where you found the staff frowned upon it, don't go back there. In most places, the staff will be happy to educate you about the basics of winemaking or wine tasting. Don't be embarrassed about your lack of experience. Many employees or wine professionals love the opportunity to explain their passion to neophytes - plus, today's newb might just be tomorrow's loyal club member. Just make sure you're not hogging counter space and monopolizing the attention of the staff if it gets busy.
Don't go wine tasting to get buzzed. If that's your thing, go to a bar instead, or throw a wine party at your place. Do not treat the tasting room like it's a bar. We really want people to have a nice experience (because again, that's how we sell wine), but sometimes the tasting fee barely covers the wine we're pouring, labor and overhead costs. So make room for the people who are behind you. Don't linger for an hour sipping your flight while we have to cater to a busy room. If you want to socialize, many wineries have events for their club members, or special dinners, or social events. Just be considerate. And while we are not a bar, like a bar we have trained employees who will refuse to serve you if you've had enough.
Don't ask us which ones are our best wines. Tell us what you usually like, and we'll suggest the ones you should try. Don't assume "estate wines" are the best wines. Don't assume the more expensive wines are the better ones either. You can ask us what our flagship wines are, for instance, or what we're known for. But if we're pouring a wine, chances are - we think it's good. And sometimes, it's that deep-discounted Dry Riesling no one is buying that we like the most, but it's also the one that's the least popular among visitors. So just tell us what you are into, and we'll figure out which flight or which wines you should try.
Don't bring your kids. They don't care about wine, and no winery I know has kid-friendly facilities. Don't feel entitled to finding a kid playground, or an area with crayons and coloring books - this ain't Chucky Cheese's. Leave them with grandma or a babysitter.
Do bring your dogs if the winery is dog-friendly, but as I mentioned before, plan your trip.
Do have a designated driver - unless you spit (see above). Driving drunk is fucking stupid and easily deadly. Don't underestimate how drunk you can get on tasting wine. 5 one-ounce pours - a typical flight - is a full glass of wine. For an average person, 15 minutes later you will be legally drunk. If you're planning on hitting several wineries and taste more wine, learn to spit, or have a buddy drive you around. Buy them dinner and/or a bottle of wine as a thank-you at the end of the day.
Running a tasting room is expensive. And if you're picking expensive Napa Valley spots, you're paying for that fancy furniture and those pretty embossed labels. Those Napa Valley tasting fees are off the charts because Napa Valley costs - from buying property to managing a vineyard - are off the charts.
There's another reason many places charge so much in Napa Valley in tasting fees: to keep away the sloppy winos who are more interested in getting buzzed than in tasting wine.
If you want to pay lower tasting fees - or no tasting fees at all - there are plenty of other options in NorCal.
Which is why see #1: Plan your trip. There are plenty of spots for people who want to go for the experience rather than the wine.
Regarding the "souvenir glass": this is something only some wineries do. Recently a gentleman got upset at our tasting room because he didn't get to take the glass with him. We - and most wineries - don't allow it. You can purchase a glass from us, but again, it all comes under #1: plan your trip, and call the winery if you're not sure about fees.
I do not believe most people splitting tasting fees are the sloppy winos in question. However I can assure you it deters them.
Tasting fees vary greatly from one winery and one region to the next. Some will charge you $50 a flight, others nothing at all.
Now while you may think that the $20 a pop many wineries charge cover all expenses, keep in mind that some days, there are very few visitors, yet the tasting room staff still needs to have open bottles. In Napa Valley there are limits on the number of people some tasting rooms can serve, and those numbers can be excessively low.
So while the tasting fees - again, where they exist - are factored into any decently built business model, the bottomline is about selling wine by the bottle or the case. There's a reason most places will waive your tasting fee if you buy a bottle or two. The wineries that heavily rely on tasting fee revenues are those so-called "destination wineries", which are not really about the wine, but cater to tourists and casual drinkers.
I'd say the best, and most fun, way to learn about wine is to drink it.
Go out and buy a few different varieties of wine and grab a pen and paper. As you taste the different wines write down what you taste in it. Is it acidic? Is it sweet or dry? What do you taste after you swallow it? Is it light and crisp or heavy and deep? Etc.
You could also read about the different wines as you are sampling and try to taste what the descriptions say.
I'd reccomend starting with some basics like...
White: Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc.
Red: Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel.
That is the way I learned to differentiate types of wine. I worked as a server for many years and we would have tastings at the place I worked. We would talk about the flavors and get to know the brands better so we could sell them.
It really is not a circle jerk. The reality is that a lot of misinformation was spread by the media and once the spotlight is on something the other opinions got buried.
We fight an uphill battle everyday in the wine world with preconceptions/misinformation and fear of looking unsophisticated.
Anyway drink what you like after all you are the one paying for it.
On the price note, I'd just like to point out that repeated double blind studies have shown that what you pay for a bottle of wine has a HUGE impact on how much you like it. When you don't know the cost, the price difference has much less impact on how you like it than you would think.
Plus there's this fun study in which wine "experts" were unable to tell that a red wine was actually a white wine with red food dye.
While there are certainly some flavors I can pick out of a wine, generally it's way overblown and your preferences are heavily influenced by many things beyond the actual taste of the wine.
My problem with most wine experts is that the product they produce, the review, is like someone describing a new painting by an unknown artist. They can describe the color, figure out when it was produced based on the date, signature, highlight a few things that their trained eye picks up on and not much else. They might be able to tell you what kind of room it would look good hanging in, or where it should be hung on a wall.
But they can't tell you any of the context that lead to the creation of the piece.
I don't trust critics as much as I trust winemakers. A well rounded, experienced winemaker can actually reverse engineer and understand what is going on in the wine in a way that I don't think most critics do as accurately. I have found the same thing in distillation: a distiller who has been around in the block in terms of spirit style and approach knows what the other distiller is trying to do and can make a judgement of whether that distiller achieved the goal they set out to.
As such, I don't think they are privy to social forces and other factors that can shape how they drink the wine.
Wine critics, to me, stand awkwardly in the space that is neither sommelier or actual winemaker, and that is a problem for them, because at least a good sommelier can understand how wine applies to a social context, situation or food pairing regardless of its price point or prestige among wine-knowledgeable or affluent people.
I stand by the idea of only cooking with wine you would drink.
It just so happens that I’ll drink some pretty cheap wine.
For cooking, I like to buy single-serving bottles. Sutter Home sells 4-packs for about $7. They’re absolutely perfect to have on hand if you need a quick splash of wine in a dish without needing to open a big bottle.
For white wine I tend to do 1 part mirin to 2 parts water if I don't have white wine around assuming the recipe only needs about a cup. I would find something else if it was more white wine heavy. Red wine can typically just be replaced with beef stock.
As for find wine you like, the best way is to go to tastings. That way you can try a range of wines to see what you like without dropping money on a bottle. Iirc both total wine and wine and more do tastings regularly if you don't have any vineyards near you. Sometimes nicer stores will do them as well.
Moscato isn't really close to other wines, but people that tend to like sweet wine typically prefer white wine over red.
If your looking for wine to cook with you don't want anything sweet. I pretty much always use Chianti. It has a nice boldness without too much of a bite even for a cheap bottle. It also doesn't stink while cooking like burgundy wine (though burgundy is a good choice as well). Merlot is a common choice, but personally I think if you're going to use Merlot you should just save money and use been stock since most cheap Merlot don't add any flavor to whatever you're cooking since it's a bland wine to start with.
As for storing it, you don't need to refrigerate them. Get a vacuum seal topper and just leave them out (not in the sun and assuming you don't keep your house insanely warm). They'll typically last a week. They also don't always smell off until they're really bad, so really the best way is to just touch a little to your tongue. Reds tend to get a noticeably weird taste. Whites will taste a bit sour or vinegary.
Typically what I use alcohol for:
Alcohol is an important "next level" ingredient in a lot of things that I cook.
There's more to it, it's not just mushrooms and whiskey. Be sure to add other things to your liking.
I run 3 pounds of mushrooms through my food processor slicer, then add 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of dark mushroom soy sauce, about 4 oz of whiskey, then a generous sprinkle of AP (all purpose seasoning), which is a blend of salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and msg.
Then I just saute it on medium heat until it reduces to a sauce consistency. Then apply to burgers, on top of chicken, on top of eggs, etc. Super good. Fresh garlic is better than powder if you've got it.
I'm not a chef but my bro has been in the restaurant biz for 20 years and we're always trying to out cook each other. For me cooking is strictly a hobby but I also did some time as a line cook. I just like sauteed mushrooms quite a bit and that's just how I put them together. I think this recipe would probably be beyond the cost of what most restaurants would want to spend on a "topping", so it does not scale well.
Creminis are kind of expensive and so is whiskey. But at home, it's perfect. My recipe started pretty basic like Kikkoman lite with a bit of butter. But they were never as good as what you'd get on a mushroom swiss burger at your local chop house. So I kept experimenting. One day I ran across some chain restaurant similar to "TGI Chilibees" that offered a "drunken mushroom" burger which claimed to use JD.
So I got the idea to combine soy and whiskey and the result headed in the right direction finally. Then eventually I discovered that dark mushroom soy sauce is umami bombi turnt to 11 when compared to regular soy. Plus I love the deep dark color with the hint of reddish-orange. The bit of brown sugar really amplifies the whole thing and fuses with the butter to help reduce the liquid to a beautiful sauce. And so versatile topped on beef, pork, chicken, and salmon. I hope you try them.
Weight loss is about calories in versus calories out. The only way to consume more is to move more, and one has to be careful that they are not overestimating the outcomes of their workouts (so eating back only a portion of exercise points is a good solution).
Unfortunately for those who like to drink, myself included, it is very easy to drink an astronomical amount of points...because alcohol truly is quite caloric. It's not so much a plan restriction as it is simply reality.
There is a little old lady in my wine tasting group who lost something like 80 pounds? It was a lot and she has a glass of wine every single night. She simply makes sure she walks every day to earn extra points to counterbalance it. She will not give up her wine and has kept the weight off for years.
"Wine Away". I broke a whole bottle of red wine on top of a lovely camel coat. Took two bottles of Wine Away, but you can't even tell now.
General rules on whether to age wine...
First, get the production facts. Cold maceration, no maceration, heavy full fermentation on skins, phenolic ripeness level will all affect tannin level and level of free phenols (technical term: polynphenols and hydroxycinnamic acids). Tannins react with protein in the wine, precipitating. Some break down, others react with other wine components.
Secondly, count the acid in the wine -- both malic and and lactic if the winemaker allowed it. The more acid, longer it needs, unless sharp acid is part of the appeal. The sensation of acidity decreases as the acids form esters with alcohols in the wine.
Thirdly, highly volatile compounds make a nose difficult to get past at first. Think aldehydes, light alcohols. These will gradually react with other components in the wine over years of time. Not true in all cases, but generally the higher alcohol a wine is, the longer it needs to age because yeast/bacteria produce as they change to tolerate high alcohol content. Because wineries like to get their product out the door, they tend to ferment hot too, and colder temperatures during fermentation = less highly volatile compounds.
Think of wines you've really thought were perfectly balanced or well done, and learn about their production process, then note how long they were aged and how. Then learn about the production process for more expensive bottle you have and make an estimate.
For the TLDR's a highly macerated Nebbiolo (e.g. Barolo) or something brutally tannic like a Chateau Montus needs a good decade at least.
A prestigious, high end Bordeaux from a shitty, cold year with too much acid, you can salvage a surprising lot it by aging it out and potentially turn up with a great wine that was slept on. Again, check the year to see.
Just start as a harvest intern at a local winery.
Depending on the scale of the operation, you could be looking at normal work week hours with weekends off to 60 days straight pulling 12-16 hour days.
Work hard and try to earn a permanent position as a cellar hand after harvest is complete. The rest is just putting in the time once you get your foot in the door. Work your way up to cellar master, assistant winemaker, and winemaker one day if you put in the work (and maybe further education depending on your situation). You can get 2 harvests in per year if you travel to NZ/Australia. Lots to learn there.
You can also go into the lab side of things if that is what you fancy, or look for a tasting room position if you feel that is more up your alley .
Cellar work/production can be pretty grueling at larger operations, but when a harvest is all said and done, it is super fulfilling. Harvest SUCKS but man do I miss it. If I could do it all over again I would probably go the education route and stay on the lab side of things to be honest. My body is pretty banged up from all of the harvests.
It is getting to that time of year where fruit starts coming in so I would look for harvest intern positions ASAP if you are looking to get into production. (Plus I think having a knowledge of production can really help you out if you end up in a tasting room or even as a lab staff member).
I think you have a few viable options that you can take, I think you should work towards a bachelors. An enology degree or viticulture is valuable and if you are serious about wine you should go for one. Now an enology/vit degree is not required but I would say in my area (Sonoma/Napa) you would not get an interview unless you have a somewhat relevant degree.
I would take the time and look at winejobs.com job postings and see what the employers want for each position. Here are the requirements for a random Napa/Sonoma viticulturist, “Minimum of Bachelors in Plant Science, Viticulture or equivalent.” For an assistant winemaker position “Bachelor’s degree in Enology, Viticulture or related field.” However these are for Northern California so other regions may be more relaxed.
Smile a lot and be really positive. Listen and smile and be interested and excited. Be excited to talk about yourself. Sell yourself like you will sell their wine.
Show your face in your accounts as much as possible in your first few months. You'll have to sacrifice some of your free time but this will show your buyers that you care about your product and them.
If your company has any kind of free employee wine education program, get to it right away. Don't think about gaining knowledge on your wines as a part of your job, think of it as a hobby. Your buyers will know when you're selling them something that you're supposed to sell them and when you're selling them something you believe in.
Be friendly with your competition. Be friendly with EVERYONE. This industry changes A LOT. You're competitor could end up your buyer. You're buyer can end up your supplier. Wines switch from one distributor to another all the time, so relationships with suppliers are also important.
Store healthy foods and water in your car. You spend a lot of time on the road and in stores loaded with junk food. It's very easy to fall into a trap of grabbing go-to road food all the time. Seriously, I learned this one the hard way.
It can be a tough and competitive job but it's really rewarding. If you like wine, this is a great job for you. If you don't, you will. When I started I didn't care about wine, I was more of a craft beer guy. Now I fucking love wine.
What to wear depends on the company, your buyers, and any bigwigs that may be in town. Depending on what's going on, I'll be in either a suit, slacks with shirt, or khakis with polo, or jeans and a sweater. Really just depends on the situation. I deal with off premise accounts only. The on premise guy in town is always wearing a suit but I think that's mostly just his thing.
More advice; a lot of wine suppliers are going to have a lot of great resources available online with shelf talkers, sell sheets, tasting notes, etc.
Marc cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and Chateau de gravieres white Bordeaux.
I knew little about wine and had had some very unimpressive wines that cost $30 and were bland and available at the grocery store for much less. When I had these wines, about 10-15$ a bottle, I realized not everything was expensive and crappy. There were flavorful gems.
All thanks go to my local French cafe and grocer.
Another option: Find a girl who loves wine and forces it on you. Drink a bottle of Syrah your first night you stay over at her place, puke a few times in the bathroom and pray she doesn’t hear, then wake up the next morning and tell her you had a good time. Eventually you will come to enjoy it.
I’m actually a big time wino now and very glad she introduced me to wine.
My favourite thing though is tracking every wine you try by each type and region - like when i have a few different canadian rieslings i can think back and compare to myself and also check their ranking in the region like if its in the top 5% of rieslings of the niagara peninsula and i still don't like it then i can form a bit more of an informed opinion.
My uncle is a bit of a wine geek and likes to give tastings and lessons. Over winter break, he poured us 2 servings - one in a wine glass, one in a red plastic cup (he claimed to be out of clean glasses) and asked us what we thought about each one. After everyone's careful deliberation, talking about different aftertaste, body, spiciness, etc. etc. he admitted they were the same. Of course then, everyone felt a bit embarrassed to be fooled by the red cups.