How to drink better wine in 2011

2011 isn't just a new year. You may not be ready to face this just yet, but you're now on day four of an entirely new decade. Why aim low by setting a beginner's resolution to drink more wine, when you can truly step up your game for the Twenty Eleven and resolve to drink better wine?

Improving the quality of wine you drink will not be easy. That's because you're likely settled into a predictable, comfy little wine-drinking rut. If your weekly wine-purchasing routine involves heading to Liquor Store X, auto-piloting yourself to the aisle featuring the biggest selection of Whatever's On Sale And Has A Convincing Shelf Talker, then grabbing the bottle with the coolest-looking label, you're probably not doing yourself any favors. None of this is meant to imply that the wines you've been drinking regularly aren't any good; it's just that you're unlikely to experience any game-changing wine breakthroughs that way. Here's what you need to know to drink smart[er] this year.

Do your homework: If you want to start drinking better wine, first you've gotta know what makes a wine worth drinking. That means really diving in to learn how to identify winning wines. (If you still can't decipher a wine label that isn't in English, I'm talking to you.) Label terms hold precious clues that can tell you everything from how the wine was made to where it's ranked within a given quality classification system, to the grapes included in the blend. Take a recreational wine class or pick up a book to teach yourself the basics, then move on from there.

Taste to win: Part of being able to drink more great wine is about having the ability to taste one. But developing a trusty palate takes work. Make it easier on your tastebuds (and your wallet) by planning to attend at least one wine tasting a month in 2011. There is absolutely no reason you can't do this -- you can literally find a free wine tasting just about every single weeknight somewhere in Denver. Just Google "free wine tasting Denver" and take your pick. Want something a bit more organized (and are willing to cough up some cash for a more in-depth experience)? will get you hooked up.

Trust a pro: You wanna know why people become sommeliers? It's usually not just because they love wine; it's because they love talking to other people about wine. In order to have confidence about the selections they recommend to customers, it's actually their job to drink copious amounts of the stuff. You can take advantage of their hard work simply by visiting their establishments. While it might be tempting to try and navigate your way through a wine list by yourself, why not let the soms do what they do best? Chances are excellent that you'll walk out with a list of new, great wines to try that are in your target price range.

Go to the source: Let's return for a minute to those go-to wines you're so in love with. Even though your goal should be to move onward and upward, you might be able to use those very bottles as a jumping-off point. Seek out new wines from the importers you already know and love. How can you tell who imported your favorite wines? Rummage through your recycle bin and find three bottles you're really feeling right now. Then search their labels until you find the name of the importer. When you do, go online to search for other wines in their portfolio, then head out to pick up a few that sound promising. Drinking better wine in 2011 is as simple as that.