“Mmm. That’s an interesting wine,” I said with a swig.

“Let it breathe, you’ll love it,” Rob assured.

“It’s very red,” I noted.

Our other friend, Sam, not quite the wine enthusiast, gave us a blank stare.

“Did you actually just say that the red wine was…red?” he asked.

I proceeded with a dissertation about the composition of different types of grapes and how some reds were more purple and others were more crimson and they all felt different on the palette and—

“It’s red.”

I sighed.

Sam had shown me something: not everyone was a native wine enthusiast. In fact, his experience with muscadiney goodness had stopped at that church-wine-bordering-liquid-benadryl you get at communion. Some people just wanted to enjoy a drink.

Since the 50 shades of red incident, I’ve worked hard to get Sam onboard the wine train, and I’ve found three tips that can help bring out the inner wine lover in everyone. 

1. Make it an experience 

I found that I could get Sam to try almost any wine, especially if I was really about it. When I’d get a new bottle of something to explore, I’d rave about it a little bit, then say something like, “You’ve got to just give it a taste.”

Invariably, he would.

A few minutes later, I’d say, “Oh, that’s opened up nicely. So buttery.”

He’d probably give me snarky flack, but I’d hook him with, “Taste it again, see how much it’s changed.”

Whether he enjoyed the bottle or not, he was fascinated by the way the profile changed and the terroir came out. There was no other beverage that offered quite so much complexity. 

2. Pair it with their favorite meal

I get the same feeling buying wine that I do when I go into Barnes and Noble: I’m sure most of what’s on the shelves is enjoyable, but I don’t know where to dig in first. 

Maybe you know a thing or two about what a given region produces, but not everyone is quite so well versed. Imagine how your wine-virgin friend feels!

Your job is to make it accessible. Have them over for dinner a few times, and introduce them to the basics.

Make a chicken dish you know they’ll love, and pair it with a good, but easy-to-drink pinot grigio or chardonnay. Wine is much less intimidating as an accompaniment than the centerpiece of an evening get-together. 

3. Go to a tasting together

When I was a kid, I loved Costco—I could literally sample five microwaveable cheese appetizers at a time, pick my favorite, and take it home.

Your wine-resistant friends could benefit from a similar grown-up version. Many wine vendors or restaurants with a cellar will host weekly or monthly tastings where you can get food and wine for a nominal fee.

They should be primed before this experience, as the price tag won’t be light on the wallet. But tastings are all about education, and they put you and your friends on the same plane while allowing you to experience a variety of wines.

They’ll leave feeling like they’ve got their vino chops, and you’ll have gotten them to try a handful of wines.

I’ve heard tell that some folks just don’t like the grapey goodness, but I’ve yet to find someone you can’t convert. Give it your best, and go out on a limb to try some of their favorites—at the very least, you find a new and entertaining way to bond.