The Colgate Scene
September 2006

Sipping tips: how to learn about wine

[Photo by Rob Finch]

David Rosengarten '71 is one of the most regular guys in the wine business. Author of five cookbooks and editor-in-chief of The Rosengarten Report, he is enthusiastic, opinionated, and even a little silly, all of which makes perfect sense when you consider his oenologically inauspicious beginnings.

As he tells it, while living off campus as a Colgate upperclassman, he simply wanted to enjoy wine with his home-cooked meals. "I began with a jug of Almaden and worked my way up."

Today, Rosengarten says he has tasted wine from every region in the world, and from every major vintage since 1945. Yet somehow, he is able to distill his knowledge down to understandable sips that average folks can savor. His following tips for learning about wine appear online at

  1. Keep in mind that wine is for food; that's how it was developed.
  2. Employ the European sensibility when enjoying wine: Don't be intimidated by it.
  3. Read about wine so you have an idea of what you're drinking. The World Atlas of Wine is an excellent book for beginners.
  4. Learn about the chemistry of winemaking. Understand wine and analyze it technically.
  5. Subscribe to wine geek newsletters such as Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar or the Wine Advocate.
  6. Find a writer whose palate seems to have been "separated at birth" from yours. Follow that critic. Test the critic's palate against your own by tasting the same wines reviewed.
  7. Organize your own wine tastings, both vertical and horizontal. (Vertical wine tastings focus on a single vineyard and sample a variety of their vintages. Horizontal wine tastings pick a category or subject, such as Napa Valley chardonnay or Bordeaux from the Right Bank, and taste various selections from that same vintage.)
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