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Taking the Fear Out of Wine Selection

by Amy Benavides

Copyright 1999 Amy Benavides. All rights reserved.

Buying wine doesn't have to be a scary proposition. Learning about wine can help lift the veil of mystery and shed light on what seems like a foreign language. Okay, sometimes the labels are in a foreign language, but you can learn to translate what you need to know. With more wine sites springing up on the Web every day, you can force the demons of your wine-choosing nightmares retreat. Once the fear factor is taken out of buying wine (or, even worse, ordering it at a restaurant), it becomes fun and even an adventure to try to find a favorite vintage or that perfect wine.

If you don't know anything about wines, the Web offers several good sites with which to begin your journey. The easiest site to remember is Wine Education. This is also one of the most useful sites, written in a witty style that is easy to understand. The glossary demystifies wine-speak, as well. This site will grow with your knowledge base; it has basic wine information, advanced wine information, scholarly wine information, wine reviews, and even wine quizzes!

After you exhaust Wine Education, try visiting the Wine Site. This is another comprehensive page with everything from wine-tasting instructions to accessories. Bookmark this site; it will be invaluable. Try doing a search with your city's name and wine -- you never know what may come up. Cincinnati is a city that has put together a site to educate and promote itself at the same time. Cincywine offers a section on wine education, as well as wine links, wine merchants, and a map of the area.

The most fun you can have learning about wine online is with The Wine Brats, whose purpose is to attract a new generation of wine drinkers. Besides giving information about wine, food, and wine pairing, the Brats not only tell you where you can find the events closest to you, but lets you chat with other novice (and not-so-novice) wine drinkers. You can even look up the Wine Brats' chapter locations and decide whether or not you would like to join a chapter.

Do you want to peruse newsletters, learn about wine news, and find wine shops, books, associations, and other wine accoutrements? If so, you need to stop at the Fuji Publishing Group Wine Page, which has a little of everything. It's not a comprehensive site, but it boasts interesting information, different from any other site I've seen.

By this time you've learned all the basics and are ready to get into the heart of wine tasting by knowing more than the average wine consumer, so you locate Daily Wine Review and study the latest reviews. From Monday through Thursday, you can visit WineDay, which presents a wine profile (and the Winery of the Week each Friday). After that, test your newfound knowledge on Wine Education. Of course, if you look up Freespace and are intrigued by the details of equipment, fermentation, tests, and racking and bottling, don't worry. You're just a Cork Dork, but that's not a bad thing to be. In fact, the Wine Brats would probably tell you it's cool to be a Cork Dork!

Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm a magazine addict, and it's no different online. The Web holds some really interesting, well-written magazines and newsletters on wine. For instance, Wine and Dine E-Zine is an exclusively online magazine, written with dry British humor, with news and various topics that are newsworthy or simply fascinating.

As for some others,Wine Today.comcalls itself "California's News Source" and can be useful to real wine connoisseurs.Robert Mondavihas a very good online newsletter on his home page featuring wine, food and the arts. Other worthy magazines areWineZine,Smart Wine, Wine Spectator,Food and Wine, and The Wine Trader. Take your pick!

Once you begin to live the adventure of the wine life, you may start to think about getting something fun for yourself, having to do with wine. You could be looking for a gift for a wine-loving friend, too. Either way, log on to Wine Country Living and find unique items for yourself or a friend. You can also find gifts on The Connoisseur, as well as on the site for Wine Spectator.

Wine consumption and education is spreading throughout the world. By going online, you can learn about wine from all over the world. Tokyo Wine News is a monthly online publication about buying and enjoying fine wine (and sometimes not-so-fine wine) in Tokyo. Wine Australia '96 is an extremely comprehensive site with sections on wineries, regions, software, books, and even a quiz. Another site devoted to Australian Wines lists wineries in the Yarra area. You'll be shocked at the number of vineyards in the Land Down Under.

If all of this talk about wine in other countries has whetted your appetite for a closer look at these wineries, think about taking a tour in person. Adelaide's Top Food and Wine Tours will have you savoring the unique flavors of Australia, both the cuisine and the wine, while Bordeaux tempts you with a trip to this wonderful, historic, wine-rich land. France in Your Glass offers varied trips arranged to send you into wine lovers' heaven, and, closer to home, Wine Country Living shows you how fantastic a trip on the Napa Valley Wine Train can be (as if you didn't already think it would be the trip of a lifetime). Last but certainly not least, Wine Harvest also offers their special tours arranged just for wine lovers like the one you've become with all the education you've gained from the sites in this article.


Now I can relax, knowing that the dark clouds have been cast aside, allowing you to go forth and order a wine to go perfectly with your meal. As for my recommendation? Caymus Conundrum 1997, of course. Salud!

Amy Benavides is the Editor-in-Chief of Okinawa Living, a monthly magazine about life on Okinawa. When she isn't tasting wine, she is exploring the culture of this prefecture in Japan.

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