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Is understanding wine a talent, or can a novice oenophile learn?

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Dear Foodie/Wine Fodorites, I am a lover of wine who lacks entirely in the art of tasting and pairing. Is there hope for me?

- I do know when I taste a wine what I don't like about it.
- There have been many occasions when I have a dish with a wine and I know that the wine brings out something good, or makes the dish or the wine taste worst.
- I also can SOMETIMES understand, when taking in the aroma before sipping, what I detect in the wine (e.g. berries, flowers, etc.).

Unfortunately, this very low level of understanding of wine is all I possess! And I am close to several people who, when they taste wine, seem to get it all.

My question: is understanding wine a talent, like drawing, or is it something I can learn? I hope yes! But I would like to know if it's really something you (or rather your nose, mouth, and brain) are born with.

If as I dearly hope one can learn, how? Is it a matter of taking practical steps (e.g. noting in a log somewhere that X varietal tastes good with Y cheese)? Can I just hang out a lot with people who know and who are willing to patiently teach? Or is it a more complex process of studying different smells and tastes?

I know what sommeliers will tell you (what they are trained to tell you): drink what you like! But I also know that sometimes a wine just doesn't work with some food, while another wine will work perfectly, and I don't just want someone to tell me what to order, I want to KNOW what to order.

I know many Fodorites are keen foodies and wine lovers, and I hope this question will provoke a good discussion but also some helpful answers.



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