So, you’re starting to drink wine (or have been drinking more wine during COVID quarantine!) and would like to know more about it. Learning about wine can be intimidating and even overwhelming! Where to start? What wine to pick out at the store? What if you don’t like it and just paid $20 for the bottle? And what about all those wine snobs out there that may be judging you? Is it even worth the bother?

The answer is a resounding, “YES!” Wine can be very pleasurable and add to your dining experience immensely. Every other country in the world that has vineyards would totally agree with that statement. I’m here to help you start out on your wine journey and to make sense of it all.

First things first. Don’t worry about wine snobs—they’re much fewer and far between than even 20 years ago. Wine professionals want you to love wine and to enjoy what you drink. It’s our job to help you find the perfect bottle of wine, no matter what your price point is. Only your opinion matters.

If you are just beginning to try wines, a great place to start is at your local wine store. They usually have tastings several times a week where you can try a number of wines before you purchase anything. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for the sommelier when you go to a restaurant. I love to ask guests what they normally like to drink and their price point, and then find the absolute best match for their tastes.

I would also recommend purchasing Karen McNeil’s “The Wine Bible, 2nd Edition.  This covers the wine world from A to Z. It includes sections on how grapes are grown, how wine is made, all of the different wine regions of the world, along with food pairings. You can read what interests you. It’s fun if you’re drinking a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to read the section on Napa Valley.

Winemaker websites are also a great source of information. All of the details about the bottle you are drinking can be found on their website. There are also pictures of the vineyards (some even have virtual tours so you can “travel” to that region without leaving the couch!), the history of the winery and what the vineyards are like.

Attend any educational events about wine that you can find, whether in person or online. You will always learn something new! Don’t be afraid to explore new regions or taste different grape varieties—you may just find a new favorite!

Enjoy the journey! Remember, it’s just fermented grape juice, people!

About the author: Dinah Leach is the wine director and sommelier for Angelina’s Ristorante of Bonita Springs. You may contact her with any wine questions at dinah@epicfoodconcepts.com.