As a thirty-something female, it’s pretty much expected that I would be a wine drinker. Not only that, but I am probably a wine lover, as well. And as much as I love to veer away from stereotypes, this one holds true. When I was in college, the idea of drinking wine didn’t strike my fancy. (Ask any of my friends who saw me toting around a flask of Bacardi 151….::gag::) But a very special time in my life, just about ten years ago changed all of that.


When I was a junior in college, I decided to spend a semester abroad in Italy. I went with zero knowledge of the language and limited knowledge of the culture. But living in Tuscany, it’s impossible to avoid learning about wine. And why would you want to avoid it? Embracing Italian culture and all that comes with it has defined my life in a significant way. So, as an homage to my time spent in Florence, and my many friends made there, here are some takeaways that taught me how to truly appreciate wine — and ditch my flask.

Tuscany, 2007 photo by @niklacroce
  1. Take your time. A glass of wine is meant to be savored, not simply swallowed. As a young adult, this advice was critical to learn early on. As any typical twenty-one year old, moderation was not yet my strong suit. Since my experience tasting wine in Montepulciano, I now take the opportunity to swirl, sniff, sip and enjoy.

  2. Taste test to discover what you like – and what you don’t. This seems obvious, but again to a newly minted twenty-one year old, it wasn’t as obvious as you’d expect. To someone just over the hump and able to drink in public, wine tasting sounds like a great excuse to drink all day. Sure, ten years later that remains true. But there is also so much value to be gained from experimenting with different varieties of wine.

  3. Not all wines are created equal. Once you know what you like, educate yourself. Wines may be of the same variety, but depending upon the region you are in, they can differ greatly. You and I both know the boxed wine my roommate used to chug while pre-gaming was not selected based on anything other than budget. But now I can go to the wine shop, take a look around and pick up a bottle of Chianti Classico with a confidence I never had before.

  4. Inexpensive doesn’t mean inadequate. Just because the price tag is low, doesn’t indicate the wine is of poor quality. Chile is one great region for affordable wine options. These wines are low priced and of high quality. Other countries with reasonably-priced wines are Argentina, New Zealand, and South Africa. And to be fair, I also had some fabulous 3 euro bottles during my time in Florence.

  5. Wine is always best when enjoyed with friends. Ok, admittedly, this one is a little bit of a cop-out. It’s the truth, though. Whether you’re sipping wine with your best friend on your couch – or out for a romantic dinner with your significant other, it’s an experience. So next time you have a spectacular bottle of wine, share the recommendation. It’s all we can do as wine lovers to pay it forward!