Duchman Family vermentino ($12) Texas

Wine drinkers are creatures of habit. We tend to drink the same wines and shop in the same places for those wines, which, frankly, doesn’t do much to expand our wine horizons. This is an especial problem for beginning wine drinkers, whose lack of experience is compounded by the intimidation factor — wine can be a scary thing for newcomers, who are overwhelmed with labels, names, terms and the like.

So, four easy things anyone can do to boost their wine savvy:

• Drink more wine. One of the things that people always laugh at when I talk about wine is the idea that they can learn more by drinking more. For example, if you like pinot noir, why not try a different kind than what you usually drink? One choice is the Mandolin pinot (about $12), which has less fruit than similarly priced wines, but a little more earthiness.

• Shop in a different store. It’s amazing how this will change your perspective, especially if you buy wine only in grocery stores. Wine retailers are more likely to carry something such as the red and white from France’s Chateau Bonnet (about $10) — solid, dependable and tasty wines that don’t have cute labels or marketing budgets.

• Write down the names of the wine you enjoy. And even those you don’t. No one, including the so-called experts, remembers the name of every wine they drink. That way, the next time you shop for wine, you know what to look for, and avoid.

• Try a wine you don’t like. You don’t have to do it often. But every once in a while, if you don’t like sweet wine or red wine or whatever, taste one. Given that your palate will change over time as you gain more experience, there’s also a chance you’ll appreciate wine you didn’t like before. Regional wine fits here: Texas’ Duchman Family Winery vermentino (about $12). It’s a white wine that is bright and fresh, with some lemon-lime fruit.

With your wine

Oven ‘grilled’ country-style ribs
Ribs have an air of mystery around them: They look weird, and they seem like they should be difficult to cook. And country-style ribs, which have less bone and are shaped differently, seem even more confusing. But they’re actually quite straightforward; serve with red wine like the Bonnet or the Mandolin.

Grocery List
2-3 lbs country-style ribs
1 Tbsp spice rub for pork
1 to 1 1/2 c best quality
barbecue sauce
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rub the ribs with the spice rub and let marinate for at least an hour. Overnight is best.
2. Salt and pepper the ribs, and put in a roasting pan in a preheated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn several times, and carefully drain the fat and liquid that accumulates in the bottom of the pan.
3. Preheat a broiler while the ribs are in the oven. Baste the ribs with the barbecue sauce and cook for 5 or 10 minutes per side, turning two or three times and basting when you turn. Watch carefully so the sauce doesn’t burn (which sauces with a lot of sugar will do more easily).
4. Serve with more sauce on the side.

Serves four, takes about an hour

Ask the wine guy

I liked a wine a lot, but when I went back to the store to buy more, there wasn’t any. Why is that?
Because wine, unlike other consumer goods, isn’t always replaceable. You can always make another bottle of ketchup, but once a wine is gone, it’s gone. This isn’t usually a problem with most grocery store wines, but it can be for wine that is sold mostly in retailers.

Sign up for our Eat Local dining newsletter here.
Ask The Wine Guy questions? Email taste@advocatemag.com.