Want to sound like a genius while getting your drink on at a cocktail party? Wine educator Larissa Dubose is here to teach us everything we need to know about the art of ordering, buying and drinking wine. You can log on to this certified wine steward’s YouTube channel or visit her blog, the Lotus & the Vines, to catch one of her easy one-minute video tutorials and get plain-spoken, in-depth info on everything from pronunciation to personalized gifts like wine club subscriptions.
With a holiday weekend coming up when we’ll all be out and about—likely choosing, drinking and offering wine as hostess gifts—The Glow Up connected with Dubose to talk about toasting friends and family (or drowning them out) with a great glass of wine.
“Wine can be intimidating,” Dubose says. But if she has her way, brothers and sisters will discover not only the joys of wine but also its potential to become liquid gold. “If you think about wine and how it’s perceived, it’s associated with the elite,” she says. “C-level executives, doctors, lawyers, entertainers, athletes—these individuals typically will have wine collections.”
Dubose tells me that throughout the NBA, players like LeBron James are collecting and hosting secret wine societies. Why is that relevant to those of us who might not be ballers? “To at least know soundbites to have a qualified intelligent conversation can give you confidence, and an opportunity to have an authentic conversation with someone that maybe you didn’t have before, because of a common interest,” she says.
Dubose made wine her business a decade ago and suggests that you first need to identify your “wine profile” to get the most enjoyment out of a bottle of vino. Step 1? “Go into your kitchen and really think about the flavors that you like,” she says. “Stick with fruits to begin with: Do you like dark berries or tropical fruits like pineapples? Is citrus your thing? These particular flavors are in different wine grapes.”
Voilà! Now you’ve found your flavor profile. To match your flavor profile to the right wine, “Do a quick Google search,” Dubose says. Or even better, “Where you really get to immerse yourself is going to your local wine shop. They’re really friendly, and they’re there to help you learn.”
My Google search, “wine that tastes like blackberries,” accurately turned up gamay and pinot noir varieties as a match to my wine profile. When I ask how to buy good cheap wine, Dubose gently corrects me. “Value wine” is the right term, because no one should feel intimidated to try any wine. “Being totally transparent, Boone’s Farm was my first experience with wine in college,” she says, laughing.
Wine is a “judgment-free zone” in Dubose’s world; prices are based on hand- vs. machine-harvesting, oak-barrel aging vs. adding oak chips to a big vat of wine, and the region where the grapes were grown. “Wine is my passport,” she says. “Wine is the only thing you can have that can literally take you anywhere in the world. ... Think about it from that perspective: ‘I want to go to Italy today. I want to go to France, Argentina, Chile. I want to go to Germany.’ I don’t have to get on a plane; I can literally go to a wine shop and spend maybe $15-ish to get a nice quality wine.”
Swirling wine in a glass makes a lot of people feel like pretenders. But Dubose says it’s more than a bar trick: “This is what helps get oxygen into the wine, and oxygen acts as a catalyst to open up the aromas and the flavors.” She says you can become the life of the party just by sharing the little fun fact: “Did you know that swirling this glass actually opens up the taste of my wine?”
The secrets to understanding expensive wines, or “Old World wines,” as Dubose likes to refer to them, is that they showcase the “terroir”—a French word for soil. Each region has a particular mix of minerals and geological underpinnings like ancient reefs that give each wine its particular flavor. “Some of these wines are known for having notes like a mix of roses and leather,” she says. “It just really takes, again, opening your mind and saying, what am I going for here today?”
Most of all, Dubose is encouraged that wine is becoming our thing, too. “Hip-hop is talking about wine right now,” she says. “Jay-Z is rapping about Opus One, and Drake is calling out Santa Margherita by the liter.”
Dubose’s mission? “I’m part of this movement where we create access to this very enigmatic world of wine and really start to allow this world of wine to reflect the world that we live in from a diversity standpoint,” she says.
The Glow Up can toast to that! Cheers!