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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.”
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