I wouldn't consider myself a wine aficionado, but I definitely appreciate a nice glass when I'm not drinking Charles Shaw for $2.99. I didn't go into Wine Riot as an expert by any means. 

I feel confident at a restaurant ordering off the menu, but once I see the wine list I feel a bit clouded and confused. The same goes for at a wine shop, where I typically settle for a Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon because it's all I know. 

Thankfully, I attended Wine Riot last weekend where I learned terminology, regional differences, and how to expand my horizons with a wine list. Wine Riot was a huge learning opportunity and it began with an introductory course. 

Crash Course with Sommelier Jason Tesauro

wine, beer
Katie Zizmor

Wine is complex and it is a personal thing. Each person's palate is different, and everyone has different wine preferences. 

After the session, I asked him what he thought is the best way for college students to try new wines without breaking the bank. Charles Shaw is good for your wallet, but it's certainly not the most palatable choice.

Tesauro claims it's the difference between drinking conspicuously and drinking conscientiously. 

"Conspicuous drinking is like, oh I'm getting that because it had great ratings. Conscientiously is like, ok, I'm going to think when I drink," says Tesauro. 

As you try more wine and get invested in the culture of drinking wine, you start to notice textures, tastes, and color differences. 

Oh and by the way, never buy Yellowtail again. 

Tesauro explained during the crash course that Yellowtail puts a dye in their red wine to make it a darker color. It's nots an illegal practice, but it's arguably gross and you're better off drinking the real deal. 

Expand Your Palate, Explore the World

wine, coffee, liquor, alcohol, beer
Katie Zizmor

Wine Riot had tables set up based on regions with different kinds of wines at each table. Port Wine from Portgual was the first stop. I had never heard of this wine before Wine Riot, but now I'm hooked.

Port wine is a dessert wine filled with complex flavors. It's also filled with brandy, which is why its alcohol content rings in at 19%. Port wine, in fact, was sort of an accident. Like many other things in the culinary world, we are thankful for some rocky ships. 

The wine in my glass was pinkish-brown and smelled like cinnamon whisky, sommelier Jason Tesauro came over to explain why. 

Over 300 years ago, barrels of wine shipped from Portugal to England had to sit on top of the ship in the hot sun. Brandy was added to make the wine taste better, and the combination ended up being a huge success. 

The wine smelled like spicy cinnamon, but tasted smooth and sweet.

beer, tea, coffee
Katie Zizmor

Next was Montepulciano from Italy, and I'm a huge fan of a nice glass of red wine. I was intrigued by the Montepulciano's smooth flavor and rustic taste.  Here, though, I also learned that aged wine isn't always the best wine.

At the young vs mature table, there was a chart explaining that time changes flavor. There is a peak time to drink every bottle, and it's on a case by case basis. 

meat, beer
Jessica Citronberg

Just because a bottle is old, doesn't mean it's going to be the best. Less than 2% of wines sold are capable of aging more than 5 years according to the Wine Riot experts. 

For a rookie like myself, I know wine to have a reputation that the older it is, the better it will be. Knowing that each wine peaks at a different time is a helpful tip to feel more confident when staring down a wine list or when at the liquor store. 

champagne, liquor, beer, alcohol, wine
Katie Zizmor

Wine Riot was a great learning experience and without it, I would still be ordering safe and basic wines at a restaurant. Now I feel more confident to go off the beaten path with my choices and am using that knowledge to help my friends navigate the wine world as well.