Montreal·FOOD & DRINK

Wine Notes: How to become a wine connoisseur for the holidays

What's the first step to enjoying a rich glass of red or a bottle of dry white? Wine enthusiast Peter Xirogiannis says slowing down, and putting yourself in the moment.

The 1st step to becoming a wine expert is to slow down and live in the moment, says Peter Xirogiannis

The holidays mean an abundance of wine on dinner tables across the country. Here's an expert with some tips on how to best enjoy it. (Isla Binnie/Reuters)

Wine — there's going to be enough of it to swim in during the holidays. You will be offered glasses of it, you will receive bottles of it, and you may even gift a bottle or two yourself. 

That's why this holiday season is the perfect time to foster a greater appreciation for this most pleasant beverage.

True, it can feel daunting: there are so many bottles on endless rows of store shelves, each with a more confounding label. 

What is to be made of a German wine labelled "Trockenbeerenauslese"? Or a bottle with a tiny bird on an otherwise blank label? 

Welcome to the wonderful world of wine appreciation.

Starting with the basics

Put simply, wine is fermented fruit juice.

Grapes make the best fermented fruit juice — and the best fermented fruit juice makes other people more bearable and every meal better.

Here are two reasons to get into wine.

1. It's a lifelong learning experience 

If you are looking to engage your senses, intellect and curiosity, wine is an inexhaustible source of information.

There's the historical, social, cultural, geographical, ceremonial and economic contexts that come into play. Then, the various methods of production and agricultural practices figure into the equation. We can't forget the craft and chemistry of wine — the near magic of fermentation, and the sheer number of grape varieties — the pedology, geology and other related sciences associated with the cultivation and production of wine.

There's enough that you could spend the rest of your days learning about it.

Vineyards, like this one, can make an excellent vacation destination — just one more reason to learn more about wine. (Getty Images/Cultura RM)

2. It makes planning a vacation really easy 

Good wines come from beautiful places.

Travelling to a wine region and staying at a vineyard is a great option for those interested in agro-tourism. It's also a great option for those seeking to visit more rural areas and become immersed in a less hectic pace of living.

Some great places for wine include: Burgundy, Tuscany, Santorini, Alsace, and the Finger Lakes. Or you can visit Canada's own Niagara-on-the-Lake, the Okanagan or Prince Edward County. 

These are vastly different cultures, but the vine is their common thread. And getting a chance to meet the people who labour to impart a vision, a meaning and a sense of place into a wine bottle is a humbling and inspiring event. 

Drinking a wine you love on the land where it was made is a singular experience, no matter how many times you do it.

Wine Notes: It's a great time to get into wine

4 years ago
Duration 2:16
Wine Notes: It's a great time to get into wine

1st steps to wine appreciation

I can hear you say, "But I don't have a wine to love yet! How do I find a wine to love?"

Ah yes, I have put the cart before the horse. 

The first step to wine appreciation is slowing down, and putting yourself in the moment. 

Take note of the colour, scents and flavours of the wine you are drinking. Then, freely associate and catalogue your impressions in a journal. 

Be present and engaged. 

It's that simple.

If a wine makes an impression on you, ask yourself three simple questions:

  • Where was this wine made?
  • How was this wine made?
  • Who made this wine?

In answering these questions, your understanding and appreciation of wine will inevitably grow. You will encounter concepts like terroir, some obtuse terminology, as well various production methods in a digestible and delicious way. You may, perhaps, journey to the margins of wine — and even to the centre of yourself.

So raise a glass this holiday season, and try not to only drink more wine, but think more wine.


Peter Xirogiannis is a musician by trade, and a self-proclaimed bon vivant. He is an impassioned enthusiast of wine, and a member of Montreal's Mo' Wine Group. He is an active contributor to Vivino, having rated over 800 wines to date.


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