Getting Into Wine: A Beginner's Story

Girl holding wine glass under falling corks

When people find out that I work for a wine startup, they generally have one of two reactions: Option 1) "You are so lucky! You must just drink all day!" or Option 2) They want to have an in-depth discussion about wine and its many nuances. I generally prefer the second reaction because it can lead to great conversation and debate, but it inevitably forces me to make a confession: I know very, very little about wine.

Growing up, my parents never kept wine around the house (not because I grew up in the Bible Belt in a dry county, which I did, but because they just preferred beer or mixed drinks). In college, I made a lot of friends who grew up drinking wine with dinner or at family celebrations, so before I could legally drink it, I already felt behind the curve in terms of wine knowledge. Being the shy person I was, I never asked questions or confessed to knowing very little about wine, I just smiled and nodded like I knew what they were talking about.

I finally had my first glass of wine during my junior year of college at a self-proclaimed "fancy night" with a few of my friends. Up until that point, I'd always just assumed wine tasted like grape juice with benefits. So, as you can imagine, upon taking my first sip I made a face that immediately gave away my lack of experience to my friends. And then I solemnly vowed to never drink wine again.

Fast forward a few years, and here I am at Winestyr. My wine-free vow only lasted a year or so, but just because I was drinking wine again didn't mean I was learning more about it. I knew which color of Yellowtail was my favorite (purple) and that wine in a bag was to be avoided (though Piccola has forever changed my mind on that matter), but not much past that.

And while being surrounded every day by people who know a lot about wine can be intimidating, it provides an incredible learning opportunity that not everyone gets a chance to experience. So, guide readers, I'm swallowing my pride and putting my ignorance out in the open so those of you who don't know the difference between Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir or what the heck a tannin is can learn right along with me.

I'll write my first informative post on the matter soon, but until then, here are a few of the best introductory resources I've found so far:

  • Wine For Dummies - Don't be offended, you aren't actually a dummy. But this book is easy to understand, breaks down complex topics in a logical way, and is an excellent resource to make you feel more comfortable with the wine world.  It's actually part of every new Winestyr employee's welcome pack.
  • Wine Folly - I first encountered this site when I spotted one of their beautiful infographics on Pinterest (and my designer heart soared), and their beginner's guide has been a huge help when it comes to both broad topics, like choosing the right wine glass, or specific varietal-based questions.
  • Pronounciation Glossary - Gewürztraminer? Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to learn about wine if I literally can't talk about it for fear of mispronouncing the numerous French, Italian, or German names on wine labels? This handy little site should at least get you comfortable enough to order wine in a restaurant or ask for recommendations.
  • Speaking of recommendations, we love giving them right here at Winestyr! The man behind the curtain of our chat box in the bottom right is Pooneet, and, while he knows an insane amount about wine, he's also great at answering the most basic questions (and is used to it, since I have been asking those for the past two months). He can also give you a recommendation for a simple upgrade to your favorite grocery store wine, which I've found is a great way to start your wine education adventure.

Jordan Johnson


You must sign in with Facebook to post comments
  • Patty Johnson
    OK, I'm biased, but what a great blog post! I don't even drink wine, but am eager to learn about it. And just FYI, you have definitely made an impact at our house because we now need a pretty significantly sized wine rack to keep all of the different wines that Dad is exploring. haha Keep up the good work! I enjoy reading Pooneet's articles as well!