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Research for Beginner

So as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m pretty early on in my wine journey and the amount of knowledge that is apparent on these boards is significant.

Question from me is how do I go about getting more familiar with the plethora of different wines out there without bankrupting myself?

I’ve signed up for WSET L1 and I have a couple of books but are there any other resources/books/websites that you would recommend to help me expand my knowledge?

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Try as much as you can. Knowledge is acquired mostly through experience. Books can help, but tasting is really where you will earn you points.

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Welcome to the journey.

Normally we would all say ‘find tastings’, and although it is more difficult at the moment, I think that is still the best advice. Lots of small merchants, some clubs, various others are organising on line tastings, and while it is more expensive and less rewarding to buy a few bottles than to taste multiple wines, it is better than nothing, and you do get the chance to hear other people discussing them, and perhaps offering ideas along the lines of, if you think this is too tannic/too acid/too…, then try…

(I haven’t tried, but some on here have, the ones which send out small samples.)

You don’t even have to buy the wines to listen to the Wine Society ones or (at a more exalted level) the 67 Pall Mall ones.

Buying unknown mixed cases is advocated by some, but if you have any likes or dislikes at all, this seems a rather risky and random process.

Good luck, and if you are willing to tell us roughly where you are, there are probably more specific recommendations out there.

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Majestic normally have a selection available for tasting.

I would also suggest to take notes whenever you open a bottle. This, going to tastings, and reading these pages have been the most helpful tools for me to home-in on what styles of wine I like, and why. Writing notes every time you taste a new bottle is also a way for you to practice tasting wine more mindfully, and help you develop a more aesthetic appreciation of what’s in your glass.

If you include basic info in your notes - the date you opened the bottle, the bottle, the producer, the grape(s), the vintage, the appellation etc - and then your impressions - you will soon discover what makes you tick, not to mention have a recorded evidence of your evolving taste.

If you enjoy studying, then definitely go for the WSET programme(s) (despite them being a bit too structured for some). I’ve learned a huge amount from it, as well as from French Wine Scholar, done via the Wine Scholar Guild.

Most importantly - enjoy! It’s a bottomless pit as far as learning is concerned.

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I’m going to echo everyone else here with tastings.

Where are you doing your WSET level 1? Do they also run tastings? If you like the teacher, go along. Do you have a favourite local wine shop? Do they run tastings? (they do) go along.

On the courses front, have you done any “introduction to wine” or “introduction to wine of…” type things? They’re often more tasting/drinking focused than the WSET stuff, where you are focused on knowledge of what the words mean and the systemic approach to tasting.

It’s basically all about building up a mental portfolio of what you do and don’t like, where it’s from and how it’s made. Most important thing is to enjoy it (this is as much a message to me as to you, I’m an obsessive academic nerd and got a little too caught up in the qualifications rather than the wine enjoyment at one point and can see myself falling into that trap again as soon as I’m allowed out!).

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Have you considered either of the other Wine Scholar courses? I’ve done the Spanish (which I’m loathe to recommend on its own, despite my love of Spanish wine, as it doesn’t get into the weird local stuff as much as it should) and the Italian, which was much harder than the French, but much more rewarding too. Possibly because outside of Piemonte and Toscana I knew far less about Italian wine than I did about French and Spanish when I took them. In fact my problem with the Spanish one could have been that I knew the wines far better before I took the course than I did either Italy or France.

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When you get on to books, Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson’s wine atlas is excellent. Great coverage globally and helps give you a better idea of location and terrain when you are reading / tasting.

I once whipped it out at a tasting with one of my suppliers and he nearly fell off his chair, but actually really knew his stuff and then used it to enhance his presentation.

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Absolutely. My plan is to do Spanish Wine Scholar this year, followed by the Italian one, but I am going to hold off and only do it when we can do this in-person again. I am just not convinced by distance learning of wine courses. I don’t even enjoy remote tasting sessions as much.

I loved FWS mostly because of the interaction with other students, and the chance to taste wines and cheeses/food from each area we explored together. So if I have to wait until in-person sessions are possible again, so be it - I’m not in a rush :slight_smile:

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Obviously not available right now but TWS tastings are great. There are generally two types; Tutored/Masterclass Tastings and Walk Around Tastings.

The former are excellent as they will take a theme, Rhone say, and lead you through several different wines. There are (at least) three great benefits:

  1. Having an expert guide you through the tasting is enormously beneficial
  2. Tasting a number of related but different styles alongside each other is very educational (as well as pleasurable).
  3. Sitting alongside and discussing the wines with a number of other people can be very enlightening.

On the other hand you are typically only tasting maybe 8-12 different wines. Though more than that for a detailed tasting would probably be excessive.

Walk Around tastings are where TWS brings a bunch (sometimes quite a large bunch!) of producers from a particular region (or some other common link) to show off their wines. No tutoring here but you get to taste even more wines close together making the good and bad really stand out and you get to talk to the producers directly and they can be incredibly welcoming and helpful.

The downside to this is that if you live in a remote area, like I do, it can be very difficult to get to these tastings. But if you can get to them I do highly recommend them.

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And when travel becomes possible, the maps are practical.

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Or rather, as many… :wink:

Wise! I piled all three in quick succession (straight off the back of WSET3 as well) and it was a bit much!

I should note I don’t actually have FWS qualification as the exam coincided with the start of the first lockdown, and I’ve not gotten round to just doing it.

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Around the early 1980s I went to several editions of the Bristol Wine Fair.
That was perfect for an amateur of wine as it was aimed at retail customers. The entrance ticket came with a set of tokens that one could use for a one-token, two-token etc tasting at any stand so one could concentrate on a grape, an area or whatever took one’s fancy.

A pity there is nothing like that these days in this country.

I still go to region specific festivals for the public in wine-producing countries but sometimes they represent a very small area.

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Hi @scm7mr

Wine is for me an endlessly fascinating and broad subject. It’s one I have been learning and studying about for 50 years and what I have learned is how much I still don’t know.

You ask

There’s no rush. And there’s a new vintage every year; wine changes. The wines made when I first started are not made the same way now. New countries have been producing and shipping to this country. So wines you learn about today won’t be the same in your future.

There’s no rush. Most importantly, enjoy the wines you have. As @inbar says, make a note of wines you have, and what you thought of them. Your tastes will change with time, so don’t commit to buying a dozen of the same wine because chances are you will feel differently about it before you finish the case, and every time you drink a wine it mean s there are thousands you are not having.

WSET is a good start for an all round look. As other’s have said, way to taste a lot of wines without breaking the bank is to join a tasting group – but that will have to be put on hold 'till normality returns.

Forums like this are a good place - ask any question you like; don’t worry that it might be simple. Sometimes the simple questions are the hardest to answer.

Books I found useful when I started were the books used in the WSET courses, The World Atlas of Wine and Hugh Johnsons annual Pocket Wine Book - latter can be put in jacket pocket and used to scope a restaurant wine list.

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And what did you do with the Wine Atlas?

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The table was a bit wonky, the atlas under one leg levelled it out.

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Our local Yorkshire Wine School has several tastings with wines available. There are plenty of choices across the country.

They tend to be a lot less highfalutin’ than some of the online tastings out there, and with correspondingly more accessible (and affordable) wines.

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As others gave said, go to tastings. Free or paid-for, that is the cheapest way to get to know lots of wines. No question about it. If you have a few mates also interested in wine, get together to share a few bottles. But do continue to drink wines properly too, and with food, as that offers a very differently experience to tasting.

Specifically I would suggest Michael Schuster’s Essential Winetasting. It’s not a massive book, but might be all you will ever need. (I wouldn’t discourage you from buying other books if you want to of course, but for most people there is a lot more to life than reading about wine.)

Further down the line, or if you are already committed, The Oxford Companion to Wine is a lot bigger and more detailed, but also excellent. It looks like an encyclopedia, but don’t let that put you off - the individual articles are very readable.

I would DISrecommend Wine Folly - book and website. It may look good and easy-to-understand, but far too much of it is confused, misleading or just plain wrong. I’m sure others here will disagree, but that is my firm and honest view.

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taste, Taste, TASTE & TASTE!!
Define what you really like and just as importantly what you do not.
It is like being a Sherlock, a Poirot or even an Endeavour!
Then refine further, regarding styles growers etc.
We have all been there, be it by accident or design; but hopefully you find wine that utterly delights you in fairly short order.
And then…ENJOY!! :wink: :+1: :dragon:

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