Selecting good wine is nothing short of an adventurous art! When you’re dining at a restaurant, you can always ask the wine specialist about which wine pairs best with your meal, but when you’re standing in the middle of the wine aisle staring at shelves loaded with different bottles of wine – what do you do then? If you get even the slightest bit confused when you read labels with complete descriptions of flavor notes, characteristics of the wine and the origin of the grapes – this article if for you!
Understanding the basics of wine can make any wine selecting process an enjoyable one. Plus learning more about your own tastes and general wine characteristics can make you an expert in selecting the right wine that goes well with your meal.
Understanding the basics of ‘Good Wine’
First of all, the term ‘good wine’ is super subjective. Good wine for you might be highly disliked by someone else. Wine is unique to you and your taste buds. It completely depends on whether you like delicate, sweet, bold, tart or even spicy flavors. These characteristics of wine are important to understand:
- Sweetness: You will often see the terms sweet, semi-sweet and dry on wine labels. Remember that dry wines are not sweet at all.
- Acidity: More acidic wines are more tart. Low-acidity wines taste richer or rounder.
- Body: Wines may have a light body, a full body, or somewhere in the middle. The body refers to how light or heavy the wine feels in your mouth. Red wines have fuller bodies than whites, as do the wines made from grapes grown in warmer regions than in cooler ones.
- Tannin: Tannins are phenolic compounds present in grape skins. The presence of these tannins are in the wine naturally or added through aging. They tend to make the wine more bitter. Tannins also make your mouth dry, and the tannin level is often confused with dryness of the wine.
The red wine making process incorporates tannins in the wine, which is why some red wines have a distinctly dry and bitter finish.
- Alcohol: A higher percentage of alcohol correlates with the warmth your throat and the back of your mouth experiences while drinking wine. The alcohol by volume percentage of most wines are between 11 to 13, but can also range from 5.5 to 20 percent as well.
Everyone is going to have a different preference for each of these characteristics of wine, and by defining your own preferences, you can find the bottle that is made for you!
Finally, some tips on how to pick a good wine bottle:
1. White or rosé are good options for starters
Our wine preferences evolve, just like our food preferences do as we mature. A study by Sonoma State University found that most people enjoy a sweet white or rosé wine in the beginning, and later enjoy dry reds or the wines that have more distinctive flavors.
But if you can’t drink sweet wines, don’t directly jump to reds. Instead, go for dry whites or rosé wines.
2. Your flavor preferences greatly influence the kind of wine you’ll enjoy
Wine flavor is unique and is what makes up the overall enjoyment of wine: your flavor likes and dislikes in other drinks and foods can influence your choice and definition of good wine.
So if you have a sweet tooth, you may find that you actually enjoy sweet wines more, or if you like the sharpness of bitter-black coffee, you may perhaps prefer a more acidic wine.
Therefore, to get started, you should ask yourself the following two questions:
Do I enjoy apple juice or grapefruit juice? Apple juice lovers are more inclined to sweet white wines, whereas grapefruit juice fans will most likely love dry white wines.
Do I prefer latte over black coffee? Those who prefer black coffee are more likely to like an Old World wine, which is the wine that comes from one of the first makers of wine – like France, Spain or Italy. Latte lovers should try a New World wine, including wines from the United States, South Africa or Australia.
3. Don’t care too much about the age of the wine
Some wines get better with age, but different wines taste the best after different aging periods. Proper aging of wine depends on varying factors like the region it is from, the content of tannins, acids and sugars it contains. Aging, in general, is a more critical factor to consider for red wines than whites. But any bottle you buy at the store is ready to drink as it is. It is also true that most wines aren’t meant for aging, and they should be consumed within five years of their purchase.
If there’s ever a time that you should be looking out for the year on the bottle, it’s for red wine. If you want to choose between two different years of a variety of red wines, you may want to go for the older one.
4. Read the label
Attractive illustrations and pretty fonts can sometimes persuade you into buying wine that you may regret later! It is essential to actually read the label rather than just overlooking it to admire it. All the information on the label might seem daunting, but reading a wine bottle label can be relatively simple when you understand what you want.
A general rule of thumb is that the more details on the label, the better. The label will tell you the winery name, the grape variety used in winemaking, the region and the year of grape growth and harvest, the alcohol content, and the wine description. If you understand the basic characteristics – sweetness, tannin, alcohol, body acidity – reading and deciphering the label will be a lot easier for you. The description may also specify the notes or aromas that will include flavors like citrus, apple, chocolate, black cherry or plum. If the flavors in the description fall in line with your tastes, the chances are that you will enjoy the wine too!
Choosing wine may seem to be a very challenging task, but if you understand the simple basics of wine and your own tastes well- you’re on an adventure!