Of course, it doesn’t make much sense to have a cellar full of wine you don’t like. Wine buying guides provide good reference points for wines you’ve never tasted. However, you might consider buying only one bottle of a wine you haven’t tasted, instead of many, even if the producer has a good reputation or a well-known reviewer has awarded it a high score. Reputation and wine scores should be starting points, since people’s tastes differ widely. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to help guide your purchases.
One way to improve your odds is to learn which reviewers have tastes that mirror yours. If you love Cabernets, for example, you’ll quickly find which critics rave over them, but you’ll also learn which prefer more restrained wines that might be more suitable for enjoying with food.
That said, the best way to learn what you like is by tasting wine. Take wine tasting classes at wine stores or local colleges and adult schools. Attend wine events where you can taste a wide variety of wines. Try wines by the glass when available at restaurants and bars. Wine clubs and tasting parties with friends can also be both great fun and very informative. Take recommendations from friends, but be sure to consider whether their tastes are similar to yours. Whatever you do, pay attention and take notes. And don’t forget to spit. Otherwise, all the wine will taste great!
You’ll almost always find some surprises, particularly with some inexpensive wines. Most important, accept your own tastes. Drinking wine isn’t a competition during which you’re forcing yourself to learn to like wines that don’t suit you. Remember, above all of the terminology and technicality, the most important thing about wine should be the ability to get the most out of every glass, so you actually enjoy what you’re drinking. Drink—and buy — what you like and don’t apologize or try to impress others.