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In Good Taste

Wine Connoisseurs, Sommeliers, and Oenophiles

Wine Connoisseurs, Sommeliers, and Oenophiles

Exploring Wine Knowledge, Careers, and Certifications

Wine is an exceptionally gratifying hobby for many. Learning everything there is to know about selecting, sipping, and savoring is a pursuit we highly encourage! But with so much knowledge, history, and science that goes into developing an expert-level appreciation of wine, it’s no wonder that some people dedicate a considerable amount of time and money to this delicious endeavor. Some feel such a passion and calling that they may even consider a career in the wine industry. And let’s be honest, drinking wine for a living does sound like the ultimate dream job!

For those whose passion for wine has inspired professional aspirations, we’ve got some information for you to consider. There are several ways to gain knowledge in wine to build a credible foundation of expertise. Maybe you want to become a knowledgeable oenophile, a wine connoisseur, or perhaps you’d like to go all-in and become a certified sommelier. Whatever your goals, we’ve got some advice on the first steps to take in your wine-loving journey. 

Oenophile

Simply put, an oenophile (pronounced “ee-nuh-file”) is someone who loves wine. This person likely considers themselves a wine enthusiast, passionate about a good bottle of wine but without any formal training. An oenophile can probably tell the difference between a cheaply made wine and one of higher quality. They talk about good wine with their friends, go to wine tasting events, and probably know how to pair wine with food. That friend who loves wine, learns all they can about it, and serves as your go-to person for wine recommendations — they would be considered an oenophile. 

Does this sound like you? If so, congratulations, you are an oenophile! This is news worth celebrating — with a glass of wine, of course. While there is no certification to become an “official” oenophile, you probably have a good idea if the term applies to you. If you are a wine lover who knows more about wine than the average person, the chances are good that you are already at this level. And now you have a fancy word to describe yourself!

Oenophile

Connoisseur

All wine connoisseurs are likely oenophiles, but not all oenophiles are connoisseurs. Generally speaking, a wine connoisseur is someone with extensive knowledge of wine. They understand wine styles, different regions and grapes, aging potential for various wines, and specific flavor profiles. Many wine connoisseurs will even take their craft a step further and obtain formal training to become certified sommeliers. 

To be a connoisseur, you need to familiarize yourself with all aspects of wine, from winemaking and viticulture to wine history and major wine regions. If you’re looking for a good starting point for building your wine-related knowledge base, here are a few pointers we’ve picked up over the years.

Wine Connoisseur

The Five S’s

When tasting a glass of wine, remember the five S’s: see, swirl, smell, sip, and savor. Seeing the wine’s color can offer insight on everything from the type of grape to the age of the wine. Swirling the wine allows the aromas to release before you smell and sip. Finally, to truly appreciate the complexities of the wine, you need to savor it.

Pro tip: To master the perfect wine swirl, hold your wine glass by the stem and swirl with the wrist, not the arm. You’ll look like a connoisseur in no time!

Tannins and Terroir

The textural element that gives wine a “dry” mouthfeel comes from the tannins, which are more plentiful in red wines than whites. Terroir is a French term that refers to the impact that climate, soil, and overall sense of place have on the grapes that make the wine. Terroir is a primary consideration for Old World wines, which are grown and produced in Europe. 

Wine Temperature

While the temperature at which you choose to enjoy your wine is ultimately up to you, experts recommend serving various wines at specific temperatures. White and sparkling wines are best served cold (43 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit) to highlight their perky acidity. Rosés taste best chilled (between 44 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit) to enhance their fruit-forward flavor profiles. Reds are best served at or just below room temperature (between 56 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit) to allow their complex aromas and layers of flavor to shine through. 

Choosing the Right Glass

Once you’ve picked the wine you want to enjoy, do yourself a favor and pick the right glass to experience your selection’s fullest flavor. Red wines taste best in a glass with a wider bowl that gives them room to aerate and breathe. White and rosé wines are best served in a white wine or tulip glass, and sparkling wine is best in a tulip or flute glass. 

Once you’ve mastered these wine basics, you can expand your knowledge in several ways. Attend wine tasting events, start a wine lovers group, read as much wine literature as you can, and taste as many wines as possible. This well-rounded approach will help you create a robust foundation for your wine knowledge. You may even decide to take your wine training to the next level and enroll in a class to obtain an official certification. 

Sommelier

Sommeliers are formally trained, certified wine experts who possess a broad, comprehensive knowledge of all things wine. They typically work in restaurants, although they might also work for wine distributors or wine specialty stores. In a restaurant, a sommelier creates wine lists, suggests wines to guests, and makes recommendations for food and wine pairings. The annual salary for a sommelier can range anywhere from $40K to $100K, with sommeliers in large cities such as New York or Seattle earning on the higher end of that wage spectrum. Those who work for wine distributors have the potential to earn even more. 

Wine Sommelier

There are four levels of sommelier certifications, and most sommeliers who work in restaurants will have at least a Level 1 Introductory certification, although most are certified as a Level 2 or 3. If you’re looking for a sommelier certification program, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) offer the most popular certifications in the industry.

WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust)

Based in London, England, the WSET offers classes for aspiring sommeliers around the world. Offered through third-party training programs, this option is ideal for those who prefer to learn in a traditional classroom setting. Course costs start at approximately $400 for Level 1 and increase to $900 for Level 2, $1500 for Level 3, and $1500 for Level 4. Prices will vary depending on where you take the courses.

Each level has a different set of requirements for completion. Level 1 is a two- to three-day education process that includes an examination. Level 2 follows a program that consists of a blind tasting, a written theory test, and a live service demonstration of knowledge. Levels 3 and 4 have more advanced versions of the Level 2 examinations and include knowledge of spirits and cigars. 

CMS (Court of Master Sommeliers)

Similar to the WSET program, a certification from CM offers four progressive levels ranging from Introductory Sommelier to Master Sommelier. It is worth noting that since the Court’s inception in 1969, there have only been 269 people who have reached Level 4 Master Sommelier. CMS is a better option for those who are comfortable with independent learning, and the cost is approximately $700 for Level 1, $500 for Level 2, $1200 for Level 3, and $1800 for Level 4.

Wine Education

 

Or are you happy to be an eager oenophile? Would you like to be recognized as a connoisseur? Do you have your sights set on a career as a sommelier? The beautiful thing about the world of wine is that it offers something for everyone. If you’re simply a dedicated drinker of the world’s best wines, there’s room for you too. It takes all types to make the wine world go ‘round. Here’s to finding your place and enjoying every sip!

Rosé of Sangiovese

Andiamo

Sangiovese can be found in both the Chianti and Montalcino regions of Tuscany (it all sounds so romantic, right?) and is known for producing classic medium-bodied wines. Rosé wine is actually made from red grapes, and this is where the Rosé of Sangiovese comes to play. Crisp, fruit-forward, and easy-to-drink, it's everything you want in your bottle of Rosé and more.

$19.99

Montepulciano

Andiamo

Big, bold, and full of flavor—exactly what you’d expect an Italian wine to be! This classic Italian grape produces some of Italy’s most straightforward red wines and is often used as a blending grape. Not here, though. We let Montepulciano do the heavy lifting as a heavy red wine and shine on its own. If you enjoy the smell of leather bound books, nibbling on dried fruit, and complementary notes of bitter, dark chocolate and sweet plums, you will love this Italian wine. No need to pair it with any certain dish—Montepulciano tastes great with all the Italian classics.

$20.99

Pinot Grigio

La Pluma

If you’re looking for more zest in your life, a bottle of Pinot Grigio can provide that. We included a classic Pinot Grigio in the La Pluma collection because we’re all about light and easy here, which is exactly what this grape from Italy is. It has that dry sense of humor that seems so effortless with a punchy acidity to keep you on your toes, all while offering notes of lemon, limes, green apples, and honeysuckle. Long story short; when it’s been a heavy day and your soul is seeking light things only, you’ll be happy to have this bottle on hand.

$19.99

Pinot Noir

Unprecedented

We couldn’t create the In Good Taste Unprecedented collection without the Golden Retriever of wines: Pinot Noir. Pinot is likable, it’s easy, and its natural state of being is simply charming. It’s an incredibly easy red wine to love, which is why so many people do. The grape itself is from the Burgundy region of France, but has made its way to California, Oregon, Australia, Italy, Argentina, and Germany since. Our Pinot Noir has no surprise twists—it’s a classic light red with just the right amount of sweetness to keep you coming back for another glass (or two).

$25.99

Coteaux Bourguignons

Passport

The Burgundy region of France is home to their best Pinot Noirs, but we took the grapes into our own hands to create something extra special with our Coteaux Bourguignons. It’s a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, which results in a French red that’s light in body but full in flavor. The ripest blueberries and freshest herbs can be easily detected in this French burgundy blend. May we suggest pairing it with some creamy brie and freshly baked bread? It’s a oui-ning combo.

$25.99

Verdicchio

Andiamo

A little sweet. A little tart. A little salty? You truly get it all with this white Italian wine. If you're into that biting acidity, Verdicchio will probably be high on your list of most-loved wines from our Andiamo collection. Citrus fruits like mandarin, lemon, and grapefruit are at the forefront, but what really sets this Italian wine apart is its distinct notes of almond. While our Verdicchio can start out tasting a bit tart, the more you sip, the smoother it becomes. In fact, we suggest approaching it as an aperitif (Italian for an alcoholic drink sipped before a meal to stimulate the appetite) to experience its full effect.

$23.99

Côtes du Rhône White

Passport

This was one of our first French wines to join the Passport collection and one sip will explain why. Some background on the Rhône Valley in France: While this region is known for its dark, juicy reds, a very small amount of special white wines are made in the Rhône Valley. Our Côtes du Rhône is packed with French-perfected, floral flavor and Old-World charm. Its natural tang paired with the weighty Marsanne grape and aromatic Roussanne grape results in a crisp, savory sip that’ll transport you to a sunbathing chair by the Rhône itself.

$23.99

Bordeaux Rouge

Passport

When you picture medieval folk sitting around a feast with goblets of wine, chances are they were drinking Bordeaux. This wine has been made in France since forever and is arguably the most classic French wine out there. Bordeaux is known for its full body, smoky notes, and rich, oaky taste. If you love cabs, chances are you will adore Bordeaux. For our Passport wines, we had to include this classic French red for you to sip and enjoy to your heart’s content. Best savored over a rich meal like lamb ragu, ratatouille, or BBQ.

$21.99

Ventoux Rosé

Passport

You probably know that the Tour de France is held on Ventoux Mountain in France, but did you know that the same area is known for its high-altitude rosé? This is the kind of quintessential French rosé that you don’t need to spin your wheels over—it’s simply delicious, crisp, and perfect for warm weather. Despite its delicate, pale pink color, each sip is lush with flavor, from tropical passionfruit and zesty citrus to refreshing melon. This has the potential to be your new summer go-to, so we’d suggest stocking up.

$21.99

Grenache

La Pluma

We knew the only red in the La Pluma collection had to be exceptionally good and exceptionally light. That’s why including a Grenache was a no-brainer. If smooth, fruit-forward, light-bodied reds appeal to your tastebuds, this could be your new favorite. The grape itself is tricky; depending on the climate of where its grown, Grenache wines could be light, dense, or somewhere in the middle. La Pluma’s version has all the airiness and flavor notes we wanted in our Grenache, which is how we know you’ll love it. Get the most of this red by pairing it with roasted meats, spice-heavy vegetables, and Mexican-inspired dishes with lots of cumin.

$27.99

Barbera

Andiamo

We really try not to play favorites at In Good Taste, but there is just something about an Italian Barbera that hits different in the best way. Barberas are the perfect wine for pizza night; they're low in alcohol, and medium-bodied but taste super light, and their berry and plum flavors pair incredibly well with savory tomato sauce and cheese! Another fun thing about Barberas? They actually taste great when chilled, which is not something we're in the habit of suggesting for our red wines. Our Italian Barbera lies somewhere between the body of a cab and a pinot and is the ideal choice for a "ladies who lunch" kind of afternoon.

$21.99

Vermentino

Wild Child

We couldn't not have a weird white in the mix, right?! The Vermentino grape is native along the coast of Italy on the island of Sardinia (yeah, like the fish). Because of its origin, this grape offers a salty, crisp flavor that's incredibly easy to drink and enjoy. We say it's "weird" only because it's not widely known by name, but chances are you've probably had it before if you've ever ordered white wine in an Italian restaurant. If you love peaches and lemons and get a kick out of anything that reminds you of the sea, our Vermentino is the perfect Italian white to experience on a sunny day outside.

$23.99

Viognier

Unprecedented

For the Chardonnay lovers who are looking to dig a bit deeper in the world of bold whites, a Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) could be your next big adventure. Viogniers tend to have more range; while they can be creamy with hints of vanilla like their Chardonnay counterpart, they also offer lighter, fruitier flavors like tangerine, mango, and honeysuckle. It’s still a more full-bodied white wine, but unlike Chardonnay, it’s softer on acidity and more perfumed. Spend an afternoon with a glass of Viognier amongst the flowers and it’ll all make sense.

$24.99

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