Cultivating a New Hobby

Wine Appreciation

Have you ever purchased a few bottles of wine at a great little winery, where you had a wonderful tasting experience, just to realize six months later when the shipment arrives, that you really don’t like the wine you purchased? Sadly, that has happened to me, more than once.

I enjoy drinking wine, but I know little to nothing about choosing a good wine. Once the bottle is open and I taste it, I either like it or I don’t. I tend to equate good or bad with the overall experience, and not necessarily with just the taste of the wine. The people I am with, the place I am in, the food I am eating and even the glass the wine is served in have a definite influence on whether or not I like a wine. So, what makes a wine good? Are all ‘good’ wines expensive? Do all good wines come from France, California, Germany? What kind of grapes make good wines? If it is highly rated will I like it? When is the right time to open the bottle I just purchased? At this point, there are more questions than answers.

It would take a lifetime of study to answer all my questions, but I can gain a better understanding of what I like, why I like it and what to pair the wine with by paying closer attention to the details and endeavoring in a little education.

My first step was to install Vivino on my phone. It is a user friendly, free app that shares information about wines. I took a photo of a label from a wine that we frequently have at home and the app produced the review below. I was most interested in the third page which shows the taste characteristics, because I usually describe red wines that I like as bold, slightly fruity, slightly dry and smooth. After looking at the characteristics and reading a few reviews, it makes sense that I like this wine. I don’t love it, but I like it and can usually find it at a price much less than advertised here, which makes it a nice ‘go to’ when I want something easy to sip. I repeated this exercise with a few other wines that I like and have the data saved on my phone for when I go wine shopping. If I can’t find the exact wine I want, I will be able to match something similar in taste and price.

The app also works for wine menus, which is very helpful, and should keep me from ordering a high priced skunky wine to go with a great dinner. Does expensive even equate to good, or is good a value based on preference? So many unanswered questions on my mind…

As luck would have it, I recently stumbled onto the blog, Buddha Walks Into A Wine Bar, written by a couple who know a lot about wine and have even written a book on the subject. I left a comment on a post and Dr. B responded with words of encouragement and a suggestion to go to My Vino Type and answer a few questions to determine my wine profile. I followed his advise, and while I don’t entirely agree with the results, I do find the summary interesting. I have highlighted the parts that resonate with me. The take-a-ways I received are 1) I generally know what I like and 2) I am not likely to explore far beyond self-imposed boundaries. Sounds a bit rigid, doesn’t it? Hmmm, maybe it’s time to step out of my comfort zone.

My Vino Type

“You are towards the top end of the scale in terms of your sensory sensitivity. In general, you tend to picky – the more CONTENT of you don’t want to stray too far from the wines you know you love, and the more ADVENTUROUS of you love to explore and discover all sorts of new wines but with very clear preference parameters”. It is very likely you cut the tags out of your clothes and may have a really hard time finding the right sheets and/or pillow cases. Other people turn the television or stereo up too loud for you and the thermostat is almost NEVER right! You are also quite likely to be a tea lover. It is also very likely your mother had morning sickness with you (and if you are a male it is almost guaranteed)! You most likely played solo sports, but if you were on a team, you were often times the captain or leader.”

Wine Enthusiast Magazine is another good place for information if you are looking to broaden your knowledge of wine. They have hundreds of great articles which discuss topics from grape varieties to understanding tannins. I think it is a good place to start when learning from square one (like me) and I will be posting a few articles to Pinterest for future reference. Speaking of pinning…

Food Pairings Cheat Sheet

Pairing food and wine is something I admittedly leave to chance much too often. Red goes with meat, white goes with fish is about the extent of my knowledge on this subject, so I was ecstatic when I found this handy guide from California Wine Club which takes the guess work out of it.

  • Match hearty foods with hearty wines, and lighter fare with light bodied wines.
  • Rich dishes can benefit from either the contrast of a high acid wine that cleanses the palate, like Pinot Noir, or a rich, buttery Chardonnay the complements the flavors. 
  • Spicy dishes shine with fruitier, sweeter wines. 
  • Starchy potato, rice and pasta dishes call for high acid wines, like Barbera.
  • Beef and other rich meats, like duck, love high tannin wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Tannat.
  • Lighter meats, like Pork or even Tuna, are complemented by Pinot Noir.
  • Acidic foods, like goat cheese, pair well with acidic wines, like Sauvignon Blanc
  • Serving a wide variety of foods?  Sparkling wine, dry RoséPinot Noir, Grenache, Merlot, dry Riesling, unoaked ChardonnayViognier and dry Gewurztraminer are all food-friendly wines that will enhance many dishes. 
  • Sweet desserts pair best with sweet wines or dessert wines.

Education underway, the next plan is to set up a tasting, at Dr. B’s suggestion, to experiment with how the taste of wine changes with the addition of salt, lemon, etc. to the foods we are sampling with our wine. That will likely happen in April, when it is safe to have other ‘fully vaccinated’ friends over.

44 Comments on “Cultivating a New Hobby

  1. Hi, what a comprehensive post, absolutely brilliant too 👏🍷 You have covered so much ground in a single post! You are clearly determined to move on, but better wines, and associate many more elements that surround wine such as history, people, art philosophy etc. You don’t have to be an expert in any of these things, but you clearly pay a lot of attention to these things when tasting wine or visiting vineyards. I just revisited your blog and your About page is empty so I know little about you? I was about to start a wine challenge on my blog but nobody seemed interested so I backed away from it! It would have guided people through grapes, countries and regions. I am going to do it on Facebook now, do you have a Facebook account? And I’ll reply again?


    • Hi Dr. B. thanks for stopping by Picture Retirement and for letting me know about my ‘About Me’ page. I will look into that. I was updating it just yesterday, so maybe I disrupted something.

      I would be very interested in a wine challenge on your blog. I hope you will reconsider. Readers will jump on board when they see that it can be fun and educational.

      Thanks for complimenting this post. It was your idea btw. I just needed a little prompting.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not yet, my personal Facebook page is under my own name, Brian Metters. Go there and make a friend request. Then I will send you a separate invite to join my separate page, @winescribe which I am currently building up.

        Liked by 1 person

      • OK, first bit done. Now go to my separate page called It’s Not About The Wine with my username winescribe. (Just search for either of these from your own page) then just “like” that page. I’ll then invite you to join the group where I will post the tasting challenge. Don’t worry, I know it’s a bit complicated, I’m just setting it up, but once you’re in …. you’re in! I will always alert people to the tasting challenge from my blog so you will never miss anything. I’m only doing it this way from a dedicated Facebook group so I don’t clutter it up with my other posts on photography etc 👍🍷

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Suzanne, Hope this finds you welll. This post was very interesting…I’m like you in that I know when I like it (or don’t). I’m also a cheap wine drinker because, well, I’m frugal. If I have a reason or occasion to pick a special wine the guide is perfect, thanks!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Nancy, it is so nice to hear from you. Where the heck have you been and what are you up to? I hope you guys have weathered this Covid year well.

      I don’t often buy expensive wines either, unless they are discounted, and have found a lot of moderately priced ones that I enjoy just as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Buying wine and wondering why later is very relatable. I often get caught up in the experience of the tasting. I suppose they are counting on that! Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tracey, I think they are definitely counting on that. Fortunately, we still like what we ship most of the time, but once in a while we get skunked! Sometimes we don’t bother to ship anything at all, we just buy a few bottles and consume it alone the way……smile….:-)


  4. As a Californian I’ve been to many wineries and many are quite an experience. Wine is a bit too sweet for me so I generally drink 50/50 wine spritzers. My favorite wine is a white wine – Barefoot Pinot Grigio and It’s very inexpensive. Fine wine is wasted on me!


    • Jan, when I was a twenty-something a wine spritzer or Sangria was my drink of choice. I didn’t know anything about wine, beer, or cocktails, and those seemed safe enough. Barefoot is a crowd favorite at my book club!


  5. Suzanne, I had to laugh when you mentioned getting wine delivered from a winery several months later and realizing you don’t really like it. It’s happened to me, too. Of course, I’m happy with a case of Two Buck Chuck (ok, three buck Chuck) Chardonnay from Trader Joe’s (there’s not a Trader Joe’s near me so we often go out of the way to find one). Anyway, thanks so much for the tips. I’ll check out the app and the blog you mentioned. I can’t wait to hear about the wine tasting. That sounds fun!


    • Beth, you made me laugh at Two Buck Chuck. Some friends of ours had a blind tasting a couple of years ago and included a bottle of it. A few people rated it #1! You like what you like and who is to sit in judgement – certainly not me! I have enjoyed having the Vivno app on my phone. It takes the guesswork out of shopping for wine. Also, be sure to take the Vino quiz. It was highly entertaining, to say the least.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Suzanne, we first learned about Two Buck Chuck at an RV rally in San Diego over 10 years ago. Someone said it had won a big wine contest in New York. It’s just my excuse to go to a Trader Joe’s – I like a lot of their other stuff, too. Just wish we would get one here. I’m downloading the Vivno app today!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I love Vivino and use it often. I did not know about My Vivino Type and will go there soon to see who I am! Enjoyed reading this.


      • So, feeling rather inept. Searched on my Vivino app and did not find what you were describing. Is the quiz there, or someplace else? Perhaps I should not have attempted this with wine in hand?!


      • The quiz is on the My Vino Type website. If you scroll up to my post and click the link (it is highlighted in green) it will take you to the site. When you get there, you will see a prompt to take the quiz. Vivino is a separate tool. I can see how you got confused.


  7. I always preferred sweet drinks, and light wines. I don’t drink anything anymore, but I appreciated your post nonetheless. It definitely shows the positive side of internet options. How cool is it to be able to make those connections and learning. Best and blessings, Michele


    • Hi Michele, I am glad you appreciate my post for what it is – sharing a bit of what I’ve recently learned. We don’t all have to partake to appreciate. Making new connections and learning from others who have expertise is always a good thing.


  8. Thank you for reminding me about the Vivino app! I had it on my phone a couple of versions ago and one day it disappeared and I didn’t notice. I loved using it to scan wine labels at the store, and then make a decision as to which bottles to take home.
    For the record, I don’t equate expensive with good, or cheap with bad wine. I’ve found some delightful (to me anyways) and local-ish wines that don’t break the bank. Great post, Suzanne! I will have to check out some of the links you mentioned.



    • Deb, I think that it is all about what you like and can afford to spend when it comes to wine. I do enjoy tasting regional wines, and I always seem to find something to take home. I am finding Vivino very helpful and I no longer feel lost/intimidated in a wine store.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post. I love wine, but to be honest, don’t know a whole lot about it and truly want to *appreciate* it rather than just drink it. A friend of mine is a real connoisseur and I really love listening to him, but… I’ve downloaded the app…let’s see what I can learn!


    • Jo, I think you will love the app, and you’ll gain some insight from taking the My Vino Type quiz also. I will admit to drinking wine without ‘thinking’ about it at all, but I am trying to change that and would like to learn to fully ‘appreciate’ it in all its applications. P.S. just finished Curlew Cottage and loved it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. We used to go on yearly wine tours in the Okanagan in British Columbia and we would accumulate bottles of wine to bring home. I totally get it, Susan on “I either like it or I don’t.” You remind me about the ambience when drinking wine. I love your photo “and Big Yum!” I have Vivino on my phone and I confess I have used it only once. Thank you for bringing it into my radar. I have to double check whether it is mostly for U.S. wines. Thank you for educating me with your list.🙂 And, yes, waiting for the vaccine.


  11. Interesting post about a favorite subject! I love visiting wineries and talking to the knowledgeable staff about their offerings. I don’t always purchase but, if I really enjoy something, I’ll get a bottle or two (and, yes, I’ve sometimes been disappointed when drinking the same wine at home). I used to drink red, but I find myself gravitating to whites more and more, even when pairing it with something that I “should” drink red with. Probably mostly because of occasional red wine headaches.

    I am very lucky to know several people who either own wineries (mostly in Napa or Sonoma) or are the head winemakers at wineries.

    My husband and I took a weeks-long wine-tasting class years ago and really enjoyed it. The instructor, a master sommelier, said that if anyone asks for his opinion about a wine, after tasting it, he’ll ask, “How much did it cost?” He said that an expensive wine should be held to a much higher standard than an inexpensive wine, which made sense. I love finding a relatively inexpensive “house wine” for day-to-day sips, and the occasional splurge for special occasions.

    I’m definitely going to check out that wine blog!


    • Hi Janis, a week-long wine seminar sounds like fun. I agree with your friend that an expensive wine should be held to a higher standard. How else can they justify the price? I tend to go for moderately priced/high-rated Cabs and an occasional buttery Chardonnay. We reserve the ‘good stuff’ for holidays and special occasions. I’m sure you will enjoy Dr. B’s wine blog. He is also setting up a FB group that you might want to look into. I’m sure he will advertise it on his blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. How lovely that you’ve found something new and fun and useful all rolled into one. I don’t drink wine (have never developed a taste for it – vinegar comes to mind!) but always appreciate seeing others enjoying a particular variety that captures their taste buds.


    • Hi Leanne, it isn’t for everyone. Malcolm and I love to cook together, so acquiring a taste for wine developed naturally through that hobby. It is fun to make an attempt to take it a bit further and learn to ‘appreciate’ wine, as opposed to just drinking it, mindlessly.


  13. Hi, Suzanne – I greatly enjoyed this post. I know VERY little about wine — but do quickly know if I like a particular kind or not (but could not ever begin to explain why). I have lots to learn in this regard. I look forward to reading futher posts on your new hobby.


  14. That’s a great cheat sheet! We enjoy wine and visiting wineries (and breweries and distilleries). I like being able to taste something before I commit to it. But like you, we’ve had the experience of enjoying something at a tasting room, bringing home a bottle, and wondering what the heck we were thinking. One memorable example was a bottle of expensive brandy we bought at a distillery in Kentucky. It was fabulous at the distillery, but when we tried drinking it at home it almost set our hair on fire, haha!


  15. The experience of a wine tasting certainly has importance, but I’ve been happy with all wines I’ve purchased as such occasions. My favourite wines are all Italian but I once had a south American wine that was fabulous, sadly I lost the name of it.
    How nice to find an app to learn more about wine! I’m interested in wine and have a huge book to read when I can take the time. Wine and spirits is an enjoyable hobby. There’s so much to learn. I’ve been geeking about whisky for a long time and I also write blogs about it. Today I started a new course about Irish whiskey and it’s a real seep dive, I love it!


  16. You are onto something here, Suzanne! As far as hobbies go, this is one that can only mean a lot of fun. Thanks for all the info you gathered and for mentioning the apps. I had no idea that we could get this much help when it comes to drinks and something as subjective as which wine we prefer. Let us know how your tasting event went!


  17. Suzanne,
    Fun topic! I’m not very experimental when it comes to wine. I find something I like and tend to stick with it. As a hearty stew and soup lover, I tend to lean toward a good Cab. had to chuckle at your blind tasting. We had one with fourteen people a few years ago. I can’t remember the #1 choice, but #2 was Oak Leaf Cabernet–$2.95 a bottle at Walmart. I’ve been a fan ever since! Have a great weekend! Joe


    • Joe, I am a complete wine novice and the goal is to expand my knowledge beyond choosing the $2.95 cab or Two Buck Chuck in a blind tasting at some point in the future. Not sure I’ll ever be able to tell the difference, but it will be fun getting there. Have a great weekend.


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