A Beginner’s Guide to Wine, Part II

With the holidays upon us and the weather turning colder, November and December offer plenty of opportunity for sharing and enjoying wine. With such a seasonal emphasis on choosing, buying and drinking(!) wine, we started to wonder just how many of us can truly say we know what goes into making an excellent bottle.

Fortunately, Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle, authors of new book A Natural History of Wine, are here to help guide you through your wine choices this Christmas. These two make quite the pair when it comes to the popular beverage. Both of them scientists – Rob, a molecular biologist and Ian, a palaeoanthropologist – they have explored every aspect of wine from explaining what the complex drink is made of to its effects on our mind and body. 

 In this four-part series for the YaleBooks blog, Rob and Ian share their wisdom and explain how you can get the most out of wine this festive season. 

A Beginner’s Guide to Wine, Part II: Don’t Be Intimidated

by Ian Tattersall, co-author of A Natural History of Wine

Getting the most out of your wine most importantly entails not being intimidated by it. Yes, there is a mystique surrounding some of the world’s top wines, the sort that most mortals (and that includes us) can’t afford these days, anyway. But most wine is pretty straightforward stuff, made purely for your pleasure. And that pleasure is likely to be inhibited if you feel you have to have a sophisticated reaction to what you’re drinking. Wine is a treat for the senses, and you have to let your senses speak directly to you about it, without letting your brain get in the way. Remember also that, with few exceptions, wine is best enjoyed with food, and not just because having a bit of food in you mitigates the effects of its alcohol. You may be surprised by how much even a small piece of cheese or a cracker may smooth out and deepen the flavours in the next sip of wine you take. And don’t think that matching food with your wine will necessarily involve complicated pairings and the fear of breaking some abstruse rule. In that department nowadays, almost anything goes.

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Ian Tattersall is curator emeritus in the Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), New York City. Rob DeSalle is curator of entomology in the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, AMNH. 

A Natural History of Wine

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