How to boost your wine IQ + video

eshaw@islandpacket.comMarch 4, 2014 



    WHAT: Wine and Cinema Kickoff Event with screening of "SOMM," hors d'oevres and wine
    WHEN: 6-9 p.m. March 10
    WHERE: Custom Audio Video, 48 Pennington Drive, Bluffton
    COST: $65. Proceeds benefit the John and Valerie Curry Scholarship Program

Does knowing a lot about wine help you enjoy it more? Yes and no, said wine expert and master sommelier Madeline Triffon. Wine knowledge can deepen your appreciation of a great wine, but it won't make a mediocre wine taste better, she said.

At the Hilton Head Island Wine and Food Festival, which is March 10-15, plenty of sommeliers — trained wine professionals — will be on hand to educate festivalgoers about the wines they are imbibing. Fewer and farther between are master sommeliers like Triffon, who have passed the ultimate test for wine professionals. Triffon was the ninth American and the second woman in the world to pass the three-part test, which includes blind tasting, theory and service.

Triffon will be a special guest at the Wine and Cinema Festival Kickoff event from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday in Sheridan Park in Bluffton. The event will have a screening of the wine documentary "SOMM," which Triffon will discuss with the audience afterward.

It's Triffon's job to know about wine and help consumers make educated selections, but she offered some advice for those who want to deepen their knowledge of wine on their own.

Five ways to increase your wine IQ:

  1. Learn how wine is made. (Check out the video below.)

  2. Become familiar with the different grapes and growing regions.

  3. Read a book. Probably the easiest and fastest way to become more knowledgeable about wine is to simply pick up a book, Triffon said. It will give you a broad baseline knowledge and costs less than taking a $500 wine course.

  4. Align yourself with a good wine shop. They'll be able to make suggestions based on your tastes and will spend your money wisely, Triffon said. Most wine shops are staffed by sommeliers, who love nothing more than to share their expertise.

    "To me, wine doesn’t hold joy outside of the consumer," Triffon said. "The real buzz for me is being able to be useful to a consumer."

  5. Pay attention. If you wanted to learn more about food, you would start by becoming more aware of what you eat. The same goes with wine, Triffon said.

    "Start keeping notes about what things you think are exceptional," she advised. "They don't have be take complex notes, but note what you enjoyed so that you start developing your own resource file. Look up wine after you try it. Know the terminology on the label. If you do these things, in a year's time you will be shocked at how much you've learned."

At the end of the day, though, experiencing wine is more important than knowing about it, Triffon said. And while knowledge can deepen your appreciation of wine, it "doesn't make up for it not being in the glass."

VIDEO: How wine is made

Follow reporter Erin Shaw at


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