Even wine and beer experts are a bit flummoxed when asked how to help a novice find a beer or wine they’ll love.
“Wine is extremely confusing,” says Roger Nabedian ’85 of E&J Gallo Winery. But once you discover one that you like, he suggests asking a wine salesperson or restaurant wine specialist which wines have similar characteristics and trying those.
For those who don’t know an acid taste from a tannic one, wine sales specialist Owen Ridings ’06 uses other preferences to help his clients at Chateau Potelle winery in California’s Napa Valley.
Do you eat grapefruit with your breakfast? Then you might like a Pinot Grigio or a German Riesling.
Do you add cream and sugar to your coffee? That probably means you’d prefer a “rounder, softer, fruit-forward wine,” like a Zinfandel, he says.
A to Z Wineworks CEO Amy Prosenjak ’94 says the only way to please yourself with wine is to try several varieties at a local wine shop, articulate what you really like or dislike about each, and then determine your personal preference.
“You really have to educate yourself,” she says. “It’s difficult.”
As for finding a beer you enjoy, most are either ales or lagers. Most ales are bitter, while lagers vary in their bitterness.
Beers with a lot of hops are more bitter—or more flavorful, in some minds, says chemist and beer quality manager Bennett Thompson ’12.
Explaining what you like to eat to a brewer is one way to begin identifying which beers you might prefer, says Chris Sayer ’99, founder of Brewery Legitimus.
“If you like spicy food, I might steer you to a lager or an IPA,” he says. “For someone who likes beef, I steer them towards an Abbey Dubbel” (a dark Belgian-style beer).
Thompson says so many styles of beer exist today that there’s something for everyone.
“If you like beers of one style, you might like others in the same style,” he says. “If you like an IPA, try another IPA.”
By Kathy Lynn Gray