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How to start drinking wine

Our wine editor shares crucial steps easing you into enjoying wine.

by: Cathy Marston | 30 May 2014
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Contrary to what you may think – hardly anyone is born liking wine. For starters, they shouldn’t be drinking it straight from birth anyway – obviously! – but even after they’ve turned 18, many people choose other alcoholic drinks before  they try wine.

Wine has a snobby image, for some it can be old-fashioned, it’s often fairly pricey and the biggest gripe for non-wine-drinkers is how on earth do they work out what the wine tastes like before they shell out their hard-earned cash?

If you’re lucky, your family might already enjoy wine and you can road-test a few before you have to go out and buy any yourselves. For everyone else – here’s a few tips of wines to look for and ones to avoid.

Start with the sweets

Did you know that genetically we’re all programmed to like sweet things from a very young age?? Something to do with getting a quick energy-fix so we can go out and forage further.

So when it comes to wine, your best bet is to start with something sweet. It doesn’t need to be a dessert wine but there are plenty of off-dry wines which should suit.

Try the newly-relaunched wines from Drostdy-hof which come in bottles as well as the more familiar boxes.

The Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc cost around R35 each and both have a little dollop of sugar to help them along.

Excellent beginners’ wines!

Avoid acidity

Even though Sauvignon Blanc is the world’s favourite grape variety at the moment, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best one for newbie winedrinkers.

Sauvignon Blanc has high acidity which can set a delicate palate on edge so look for softer, fruitier wines which are easy to sip. Try the Versus range from Stellenbosch Vineyards.

Their Crisp and Fruity White costs about the same as the Drostdy-hof and balances a touch of freshening acidity with loads of ripe, soft fruit.

Take care with tannins

Most people start with whites or pinks when they first drink wines, but meat-lovers may decide to plunge in at the deep end and go straight for the reds.

A lot of people get put off red wines because of gritty, bitter, dry tannins, often enhanced with lots of chewy, dry oak as well.

Take a look at the Petit range from Ken Forrester – he’s got a Pinotage and a Cab/Merlot, both costing R40 cellar door.

They are made without any wood and have a pleasant fruity sweetness which makes them ideal for first-time drinkers - all the rich flavours without any of the fussy tannins!


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