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Compare, Contrast, Taste, Enjoy - A Great Way to Learn Wines
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed February 10, 2006. For more information go to

Compare and contrast. Contrast and compare. This key principle about learning wine bears frequent repetition.

Back in school days, those "compare and contrast" essay questions on English literature exams struck me as a real pain; but in the long run I know they helped me develop analytical thinking skills. In real life, setting yourself to a similar task with wine can be just as instructive...and tastes good, too.

You can open similar bottles side-by-side or simply take notes on one night's wine, then move on to a comparison bottle the following night before your palate's memory fades. Either way, the process of paying close attention to the ways that the wines resemble each other - and how they differ - is an extremely effective way to learn.

It's easy to come up with specific "assignments" for comparison: Taste two different grape varieties and try to discern the differences; sample wines made from the same grape in different regions; compare variations among similar wines of different vintages, or just sit down at the table and pay attention as you enjoy your dinner, learning how food-and-wine matching works by comparing your reactions to disparate wines over the meal.

If you're worried about wasting wine (or drinking too much) by opening two bottles, invite friends in to share the experience...or just recork the partially finished bottles, stick them in the fridge, and save them to enjoy another day.


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