The Basics of Enjoying Wine 101.1

(This is the first of a four-part question and answer series about wine.)

by Jeff Siegel*

The first question that people always ask me about wine is how to get started drinking it. For some reason, Americans are convinced that wine is not something to drink with dinner, but a secret holy society that requires rituals and initiations to understand.

This is silly, and I’m proof of that. Today, I’m a wine writer and educator who travels throughout the wine world. But 20 years ago, I was a sportswriter who drank Miller Lite and thought wine was something that only snooty people did. If I can learn about wine, anyone can. My biggest regret is that I didn’t start sooner.

Hence this Q and A, which is enough to get almost anyone ready to look at their glass, take a sip, and sigh.

I hear people talk about certain grapes all the time, like chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. What exactly are they?

Chardonnay and cabernet are varieties of grapes, part of the species Vitis vinifera (which concludes today’s Latin lesson). Most wine grapes grown in California, France, Italy, and other wine regions are vinifera, which generally makes the best wine. Wine in the U.S. is also made from native American grapes like the concord and the catawba and hybrids, which are crosses between native and vinifera grapes.

*Jeff Siegel is the wine columnist for the Star-Telegram newspaper in Fort Worth, Texas, and Advocate magazines in Dallas.

(To read Part II, please click here.)

(Photo by jeltovski via morgueFile.)

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