How wine merchants can help you improve your knowledge in 2016

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A new year is very nearly upon us, and as wine merchants dust themselves off after another hectic festive period, it's time to look to the future - especially if your New Year's resolution is to learn more about wine.

Independent wine merchants have plenty to offer in terms of learning about how to enjoy wine in greater detail, transforming it from being simply something you sip with your dinner, into a pastime in its own right, with a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the complex flavours to be found in different grapes and regions.

Your local wine merchant should be able to help you find some new labels to try, and if you already have some firm favourites, these can provide a great starting point.

Significantly, whereas friends, family and other wine enthusiasts may seem a little snobbish in their approach to the hobby, your local wine merchant is there to help - so if you want to stick only to red wines, or only to white wines, you can expect helpful recommendations without any harsh judgment of your preferences.

It's sensible to start with a specific region, if you know what you want to explore initially; many people start with the classic French wines for instance, whereas red wine enthusiasts might want to make their way through some Spanish Riojas to gain a greater appreciation for their full flavour and complexity.

South America is also a good starting point for red wines, particularly Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina, while the Marlborough region of New Zealand's South Island and Margaret River in Western Australia both produce some excellent white wines.

It's a journey of exploration you can do from the comfort of your own home - especially if you buy wine online and have it delivered to your door - so don't be afraid to ask your nearest independent wine merchant for some starting points, and improve your palate in 2016.