7 ways to drink wine like an expert

WASHINGTON — Wine experts aren’t born experts.

Take, for example, Marissa A. Ross. Nowadays, she’s the wine editor at Bon Appétit and the author of “Wine. All the time.” But not too long ago, she was a struggling comedy writer in Los Angeles who blogged about her love of inexpensive wine in her spare time.

“There are videos on the internet of me drinking $3 wine out there, for sure. For years, I wrote these reviews that no one read. I’d get like 14 hits a month,” Ross said.

That all changed when New York Magazine’s Grub Street ran an article about Ross’ blog. Suddenly, wine became a much bigger part of her life.

Ross’ goal, from the beginning, has been to help people better understand wine, without all the pomp and pretentiousness (and without spending an entire paycheck). Want to get started? Here are a few tips for drinking like an expert — no sommelier course required.

A woman tastes a glass of Tuscan red wine on the opening day of the 44th edition of the annual International Wine and Spirits Exhibition "Vinitaly", in Verona, northern Italy, Thursday, April 8, 2010. The wine exhibition runs until April 12. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Get a better grasp on the taste   Ever read a wine review and stumble over the description? (Can wine really taste like leather and dirt? Where did the reviewer get that from?) In order to better pick up on underlying flavor notes, Ross says you need to get rid of distractions. Don’t gulp from the glass while simultaneously cleaning out your inbox in front of the TV. Take a minute and focus on the drink in front of you. “I think it’s really important, if you want to start tasting wine, to really sit down with it and taste it and be present,” Ross said. Her biggest tip when it comes to tasting is to chew your wine just for a sip or two. “It ends up pushing the wine throughout your mouth that sounds so weird but you end up tasting more of the wine if you chew it. And you’ll end up tasting things that you didn’t normally taste if you were just sipping it,” Ross said. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/LUCA BRUNO)
In this Sept. 20 2012, photo, a wine seller presents a 2005 bottle of Bordeaux wine Chateau Margaux at his shop in Paris. The United States wants to sell some of their wines in the European Union with a ''chateau'' label.  Next week, EU experts will look whether it should permitted with a fight among member states set for later this year, well after the wine harvest. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
Picking out a wine: Two things to look for on the label Often times, wine labels don’t come packed with a ton of information, but there are two things to pay attention to when picking out a bottle. First, note the varietal and start keeping track of those that you like — be it pinot noir or sauvignon blanc. Next, look at the region where the wine is from. Chances are, if you’ve enjoyed a cabernet franc from the Loire Valley and find another cabernet from the same region, you won’t be wasting your money. Blind buying can occasionally result in a pleasant surprise, but most of the time, it doesn’t do you any favors. (AP/Remy de la Mauviniere) (AP/Remy de la Mauviniere)
**ADVANCE FOR FRIDAY JUNE 12** **FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES** This photo taken May 18, 2009  shows the new EnRoute pinot noir wine  during a release party at Amber Ridge vineyard in Windsor, Calif.  Is it the right time to debut a new premium wine? Perhaps as good as any in the notoriously capricious wine business, says Dirk Hampson, one of the partners behind EnRoute, a pinot noir from Sonoma County's Russian River Valley making its debut this fall.Hampson notes that he and his partners, who already have the successful Napa Valley wineries Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel, have weathered previous squalls.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
The best wine to drink after a long day Having one of those days that just doesn’t seem to end? Ross says the best wine to come home to is one “that’s a little on the fuzzy side that makes you feel like a little bit of a hug.” Try a zinfandel or a malbec, even a burgundy or a pinot noir. “Something that’s red and a little warm and fuzzy, just to say, ‘Ahh. My day is done. I can just relax and feel good in my pajamas now,’” Ross said. (AP/Eric Risberg)  (AP/Eric Risberg)
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 06:  Monica De Abreu tastes a white wine as she decides which wines to purchase from a salesman at Global Liquors on June 6, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Reports indicate that for the first time, the U.S. consumed more wine than France in 2010. The French still drink far more wine per capita than Americans, but the United States, which has a much larger population, has more people pouring a glass of wine.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
What to drink before an evening out Sometimes, there’s nothing better than sipping on a glass of wine while you’re getting ready for a night on the town or even a more quiet gathering with friends. For this occasion, Ross is a fan of vinho verde. “It has a really nice acidity; it’s really light so you’re not going to fill up,” Ross said. Plus, it’s a relatively low-alcohol wine. “So you can have a glass or two without being too wild before you go out,” Ross added. (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)  (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 15:  Beaujolais Nouveau 2007 wine is opened during a celebration for the young wine, moments after midnight November 15, 2007 in Tel Aviv, Israel. According to tradition, this fruity red wine which is made from the Gamay grape from the Beaujolais region of France, can only be served anywhere in the world after one minute past midnight local time on the 3rd Thursday of each November. The past year, however, has been a disaster for the wine makers of Beaujolais wine-growing region of France who have seen thirteen million bottles from the 2006 harvest turned into vinegar or pure alcohol because they could not be sold.  (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)
What to keep on hand for all occasions Friends coming over? Just want to unwind on a Wednesday night? Ross recommends gamay, a light red wine that generally hails from France. “I love it because you can put it in the fridge, it’s super versatile, it goes with nearly every food. It’s just such a friendly, easygoing wine, and it’s not too expensive, so it’s a great wine to have around for all occasions,” she said. (Getty Images/David Silverman) (Getty Images/David Silverman)
WIESBADEN, GERMANY - JANUARY 22:  A glas is filled with Riesling wine during a wine tasting at the wine-growing estate Schloss Vollrads on January 22, 2006 in Oestrich-Winkel near Wiesbaden, Germany. The growing ?ABC? or ?Anything But Chardonnay? trend among wine drinkers has caused many consumers to look for more variety in their white wine choices. In fact, Riesling is currently one of the fastest-growing white varieties in the U.S. market and Germany as its greatest country of origin produces 70 percent of all Riesling wines worldwide.  (Photo by Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images)
What to bring a host A bottle of wine is a great go-to gift for a host if you bring something the host likes. Ross says if you don’t know the host’s personal taste, call and ask if there’s a particular wine you can bring, maybe even something they’re planning to serve.   If they don’t give you any direction, pick a bottle that is food-friendly, such as a dry riesling or gamay. “Or just bring something that you really love, and that you can share with people, and that you’re really excited about. I always think that’s a good choice too,” Ross said. (Getty Images/Ralph Orlowski) (Getty Images/Ralph Orlowski)
In this image taken on Jan. 28, 2013, from left clockwise, a glass of citrus bubbly with a small curl of lemon on top, a glass of spiced rose-pomegranate spritzer with a star anise on top, two glasses of sparkling wine, and a glass of wild meadow with berries, are shown with canapes and blini in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
Drink what you like This is the most important tip for enjoying wine like an expert: Drink what you like and drink it how you like it. “Add a little spritz to your wine, put an ice cube in it if you want. Whatever you want to do to enjoy wine, that’s for you,” Ross said. “If it’s something that makes you happy, then that’s all that matters to hell with everyone else.” (AP/Matthew Mead)
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A woman tastes a glass of Tuscan red wine on the opening day of the 44th edition of the annual International Wine and Spirits Exhibition "Vinitaly", in Verona, northern Italy, Thursday, April 8, 2010. The wine exhibition runs until April 12. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
In this Sept. 20 2012, photo, a wine seller presents a 2005 bottle of Bordeaux wine Chateau Margaux at his shop in Paris. The United States wants to sell some of their wines in the European Union with a ''chateau'' label.  Next week, EU experts will look whether it should permitted with a fight among member states set for later this year, well after the wine harvest. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
**ADVANCE FOR FRIDAY JUNE 12** **FOR USE WITH AP LIFESTYLES** This photo taken May 18, 2009  shows the new EnRoute pinot noir wine  during a release party at Amber Ridge vineyard in Windsor, Calif.  Is it the right time to debut a new premium wine? Perhaps as good as any in the notoriously capricious wine business, says Dirk Hampson, one of the partners behind EnRoute, a pinot noir from Sonoma County's Russian River Valley making its debut this fall.Hampson notes that he and his partners, who already have the successful Napa Valley wineries Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel, have weathered previous squalls.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 06:  Monica De Abreu tastes a white wine as she decides which wines to purchase from a salesman at Global Liquors on June 6, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Reports indicate that for the first time, the U.S. consumed more wine than France in 2010. The French still drink far more wine per capita than Americans, but the United States, which has a much larger population, has more people pouring a glass of wine.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 15:  Beaujolais Nouveau 2007 wine is opened during a celebration for the young wine, moments after midnight November 15, 2007 in Tel Aviv, Israel. According to tradition, this fruity red wine which is made from the Gamay grape from the Beaujolais region of France, can only be served anywhere in the world after one minute past midnight local time on the 3rd Thursday of each November. The past year, however, has been a disaster for the wine makers of Beaujolais wine-growing region of France who have seen thirteen million bottles from the 2006 harvest turned into vinegar or pure alcohol because they could not be sold.  (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)
WIESBADEN, GERMANY - JANUARY 22:  A glas is filled with Riesling wine during a wine tasting at the wine-growing estate Schloss Vollrads on January 22, 2006 in Oestrich-Winkel near Wiesbaden, Germany. The growing ?ABC? or ?Anything But Chardonnay? trend among wine drinkers has caused many consumers to look for more variety in their white wine choices. In fact, Riesling is currently one of the fastest-growing white varieties in the U.S. market and Germany as its greatest country of origin produces 70 percent of all Riesling wines worldwide.  (Photo by Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images)
In this image taken on Jan. 28, 2013, from left clockwise, a glass of citrus bubbly with a small curl of lemon on top, a glass of spiced rose-pomegranate spritzer with a star anise on top, two glasses of sparkling wine, and a glass of wild meadow with berries, are shown with canapes and blini in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)


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