Which Starter Wine Should You Buy
Its best to start simple so you can isolate what youre tasting and what it is about a wine that you like or dislike.
Start in the $10 to $15 price range. Most wines at this price point are typical of their variety and region. Some say that complexity doesnt start until the $25 level or $35 level, but while youre in the exploratory phase, its better to spare your wallet. That being said, you can find good bottles of wine under $10its just a bit harder.
Again, its hard for a beginner to tell how a wine will taste based solely on the varietal. So, above all, dont be shy about asking for help. Your best bet is to walk into the store and ask for the kind of wine youre interested in trying. Say, I want a dry, light-bodied white wine or I want to try a full-bodied red. Or, you could even mention wines that youve enjoyed in the past and ask for something similar.
Another good tactic is to ask for a typical varietal, e.g., Find me a typical Pinot Grigio for $15. Heres a quick rundown that might help you decide:
An Impeccably Balanced Ribera
This is the fourth wine that I have written up from the La Rioja Alta wine company in the 783 times I have put pen to paper in this column. Thats a good percentage of appearances for a single wine company, but this red is not from Rioja. I must admit that I got a little excited as I tasted this masterful Ribera, and then my palate took a step back when I learned that the alcohol percentage is a little over 15% by volume! Hefty, but I can assure you that this lusty fellow is impeccably balanced on the palate. It is one of the most expressive old vine Riberas I have tasted, and given it is only five years old, the fruit and tannin, and the 16 months spent in new French oak, are all very integrated.
My wine-scribe pal Tim Atkin has awarded this beauty a heady score of 96/100. There is a phenomenon in the wine world called score-creep. This is when seemingly mesmerised wine journos hand out nosebleed scores to all manner of ill-deserving wines. This disease is rife in our industry and something which punters have wisely learned to ignore after having consumed far too many wines with high-nineties scores and dreary flavours. Mr Atkin is not one of these fools. If I scored wines out of 100, I would also be up among the clouds. There is another attractive number attached to this wine, too £35 is a small price to pay for this degree of sophistication.
NV Louis Roederer, Collection 242, Champagne, France
Tips For Picking A Good Bottle Of Wine
Since good wine is so subjective, knowing how to choose the right wine means considering several factors including occasion, flavor preferences, labels and price points. While the combination of these factors is different for each person, the tips below will help anyone in search of that perfect bottle of wine.
1. If you are new to wine, start with a white or rose.
Just as your food preferences evolve as you mature, the wines you enjoy are also likely to change over time. However, a study of consumer palates by Sonoma State University found most people first enjoy a sweet white or rose wine, then later fall in love with dry reds or wines with more distinctive flavors. Fifty-four percent of respondents in the Sonoma State University study said they preferred semi-sweet or sweet white or rose wines when they started drinking wine. While each persons experience is different, an early distaste for drier wines or wines with high tannins may be due to their unique flavor and sharp bitterness.
If the thought of drinking a sweet wine makes you cringe, that doesnt necessarily mean you should jump to reds. Instead, opt for a dry white or rose. Beginning with a lighter-bodied wine can be a step to learning to enjoy a variety of wines.
2. Reflect on other flavors you enjoy.
3. Consider the occasion.
4. Be sure to read the label and learn what youre reading.
5. Look for second-label wines.
6. Dont stress over the age of the wine.
7. Dont let price dictate your choice.
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Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Also scooping up an impressive silver medal at this years IWSC awards was this beautiful bottle of Saint Emilion. One of the most popular of Bordeauxs wine regions, the words Grand Cru indicate this wine has passed a special tasting panel.
For the money brilliant. Put it in a decanter, add a little splash of port and pretend its premier grand cru. , said one happy Lidl customer. Dry, firm, and plummy with a note of oak, this wine pairs perfectly with a beef Wellington.
Compressor Wine Coolers And Thermoelectric Wine Coolers
Compressor wine coolers use a cooling compressor to keep your wine at the correct temperature, while thermoelectric wine coolers use fans to circulate the air and keep your wine at the correct temperature. Compressor wine coolers are usually a little bit quieter than thermoelectric wine coolers. The mechanism inside the compressor refrigerator allows it to maintain a wide range of temperatures irrespective of the ambient temperature.
Here are the best wine coolers and fridges available in the market:
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The Utility Player When You Don’t Know What’s For Dinner:
So what if you’re going to a dinner party, and you have no idea what’s going to be on your plate?
“The most popular red grape in Spain is the tempranillo, and you can get bottles from all over the country. But historically, the best spot for it is Rioja,” Selecman said. “If you can find a bottle from Rioja… I call it ‘the girl next door wine.’ People laugh, but it’s a generally forgotten wine. It goes with everything. It’s always available. And it’s never expensive.”
It can pair well with everything from charcuterie and cheese, to hearty stews, to vegetarian dishes. It works with everything. A true utility player.
What Not To Buy
Walking into any wine store to pick up gifts without a firm plan in mind can be an overwhelming experience. A sea of confusing labels all compete for your attention in a cacophony of choice. Therefore we will start by reducing the seemingly endless array of options through the process of elimination.
Unless you are very sure that the gift recipient likes any of the following styles or the person is exceptionally well-versed in the subject of wine is open to trying all kinds of obscure styles, it is advised that you avoid gifting the following wines. Wine is a highly personal beverage, and although you may be temped to want to introduce someone to something unique or unusual, few people are truly super adventurous when it comes to their wine taste preference. Your well intentioned and gift may be re-gifted, returned -or worst of all: opened and not enjoyed, causing the rest of the bottle to be wastefully dumped out! Best gift-giving practice when you are unsure is to play it on the safe side.
The following may all be good wines, but they tend to be too specific or niche to go with when you are flying in the dark and trying to pick something to give as a gift from the vast world of wine.
Wines to avoid giving as gifts:
- Wine packaged in specialty bottles such as tree ornaments or animal shapes – the look may be fun but wine inside is usually the lowest possible quality.
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What Are The Best Wines To Age
Wines with the best structure age the most gracefully. And since structure is usually imparted by tannins, which are in turn imparted by grape skins, stems, and seeds during maceration, those tend to be red wines. You can learn more about the fermentation of different wine varietals by picking up some of the best wine books available.
Here are some of the best wines to age , followed by a wine aging chart for easy reference. Keep in mind that each producer and vintage is different, and that the vast majority of wines bottles sold are meant to be enjoyed before theyâre five years old. But of those that arenât, here are some general guidelines to get the best aged wine you can. Never age cooking wine, it’s not worth the time investment as you’ll burn it off during cooking anyway.
For The Vegan Dinner Party:
Pairing wine with vegan meals might seem like a daunting task… and that’s because it kind of is. For this one, you’re going to have to get a little niche.
“A grenache syrah blend, like Côtes du Rhône from the south of France is a good fit,” Selecman said. “It’s a bistro wine, super-accessible, light easy, and highly drinkable.”
For a white, Selecman points toward a white Bordeaux, something sauvignon blanc-based. “This is a softer, more refined style than whites that hail from outside of France, and pairs very well with grain-based dishes,” she said.
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Common Red Grape Varietals
You could spend years getting to know the nuances of even the most popular red grape varietals in the world. Start with these basics to help you pick your next favorite wine.
Pinot noir grapes are notoriously finicky and difficult to grow, yielding a light-bodied and often delicate red wine. Originally popularized by the Burgundy region in France, pinot noir grapes also thrive in Sonoma and Santa Barbara in California, in the Pacific Northwest, and in Germany .
Pinot noir tends to have medium-high acidity levels and notes that blend sweet spices with red fruits . These light red wines pair well with fatty fish , white meats and lighter red meats, and cheese.
Buying tip: Red wines from Burgundy are made with pinot noir grapes.
CAB-uhr-NAY SAW-veen-yon CAB-uhr-NAY SOH-veen-yon
A medium- to full-bodied red wine most commonly grown in Frances Bordeaux region and Northern California, cabernet sauvignon is also widespread throughout the world, including Chile, Washington state, Australia, Argentina, and Italy. These wines are typically dry.
The better the cabernet sauvignon, the more layered and complex, with flavors of dark fruits , warm spices, and sometimes tobacco or leather. Cabernets tend to pair well with red meats and strong-flavored cheeses.
Buying tip: Red wines from Bordeaux are made with blended cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes, sometimes with cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot.
Syrah & Grenache
Single Zone Or Dual Zone Wine Coolers
A single zone fridge will cool your whites and reds at the same temperature, while dual zone wine fridges will store different wines at different temperatures. If you’re not sure what type of wine you’ll be storing, it might be a good idea to buy dual zone fridges so that you can have more control over the environment.
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Terminology: The Key Terms To Know When Buying Wine
ABV: Alcohol By Volume the percentage of ethanol in a beverage.
Appellation: A legally defined and protected geographical area used to identify where grapes for a wine were grown.
Assemblage: A French term for the grape varieties used to blend a wine.
Blind tasting: This allows for an unbiased evaluation of the wine and is when the identity of the wine is hidden from the taster.
Dry wine: Red or white wines where all the residual sugar has been fermented.
Full-bodied: A term for wines that are usually higher in alcohol, glycerin and concentration.
Tannins: Extracted from the grape skins and stems, these are the backbone of a wine and need to be ripe for a wine to feel good in your mouth.
Variety: The type of grape used to make a wine.
Vintage: The year a wine was produced.
Finding Wines You Love
Wine is there for your enjoyment. Whether you begin your wine journey by taking some of the best wines for beginners suggestions made here or decide to venture out on your own, try tasting a few different bottles of a certain type of red or white wine to really get a feel for it. Use the resources available to you, as well. Ask a local wine shop owner to recommend a wine for a new palate. He or she will surely have some suggestions you will love.
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Best White: 2019 Dr Loosen Dr L Riesling
Courtesy of Wine.com
Region: Germany | ABV: 8.5% | Tasting Notes: Yellow Apple, Pear, Peach, Lemon Curd
Forget everything you think you know about rieslingthis seriously underrated variety makes some of the greatest serious white wines in the world, but it is also responsible for some of the best introductory styles. Riesling comes in every level of sweetness imaginable, from bone dry to lusciously sweet, but most beginners will want to start with an off-dry version like this best-selling classic from Dr. Loosen.
Vibrant acidity keeps this wine from being cloying, and ripe citrus, orchard, and stone fruit flavors make it delightful to drink. The best part is that, like most rieslings, this food-friendly wine is pretty low in alcohol, so it wont cloud your judgement if youre tasting it alongside other wines.
Additional Wines That Could Be Added To Either Option Listed Above
Sparkling: Some guests might enjoy a sparkling wine. You might also want one if youre celebrating for a birthday or anniversary party. Unless its a really special occasion where you want to serve Champagne, you should go with Prosecco from Italy or Cava from Spain. They are both really enjoyable and more economical than Champagne.
Sweet wine: Depending on the group of guests, you might like to have a sweeter option on hand as some people do not enjoy dry wine. A few possibilities here include Moscato from Italy or Riesling from Germany.
Rosé: If youre having a party in the summer or know that some of your guests enjoy rosé, having a few bottles on hand is a nice touch. Try a rosé from the South of France Provence, for example, produces great rosés at great prices.
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An Absolute Stunner At Aldi
It is probably bad form to quote ones own previously published work in this column, but here we go. To set the scene, back in April 2016 I tasted this wine out of barrel in preparation for my annual Bordeaux En Primeur Report.
This is what I wrote: There are a few more members of the Laforge orchestra, in terms of flavour complexity, this year, and there is also more tannin here than I have seen before. This means it is a slightly bigger wine than expected and one that needs a few years before one can drink it. With a dark tone and a lovely luxurious nose, this is a black fruit compote of a wine, and there are even touches of mint here to freshen it up. This is a treat for wine lovers. 17/20.
Made from 92% merlot and 8% cabernet franc and weighing in at around a hearty 14.7% alcohol, it is clear that six years down the track 2015 Laforge is an absolute stunner. Imagine my surprise when I found it in the Christmas line-up at Aldi.
Ive searched the internet and can only find it overseas and at double this price! While it might seem a little strange to buy super-fine Right Bank claret in Aldi, I can assure you that this is one of the knockout clarets of the year and at just shy of 20 quid I would back up the estate car in the Aldi carpark and load up with as much as your suspension allows. Hurry, though, and get ahead of the stampede of SUVs starting any minute now.
2018 Littorai, The Pivot Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Aged Wine: Uncommon But Precious
The best rule for how to age wine is to follow Coatesâ Law of Maturity because itâs tailored to specific vintages from specific producers . So, whether youâre becoming a sommelier or youâre just an individual collector interested in wine storage, itâs straightforward and based on specifics.
But if you donât have that information handy, you can use the years in the chart above and work backwards toward some approximation of Coatesâ Law.
There are other ways to enhance the wine experience besides aging, though. Aged wine has a subtlety and mystique that are unmistakable, but if youâre just trying to make your wine the best version of itself, think about learning how to decant. Or using wine aerators. Theyâre simple, affordable, quick, and weâve compiled some great lists of the best wine decanters and best wine aerators to make it easy.
Aged wine is great, donât get us wrong. Just donât age wine for the sake of it. You could be doing more harm than good. You should also pick up a wine pourer to make pouring that aged wine easier and avoid wasting a single drop.
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What’s The Difference Between Red And White Wine
Okay, you probably dont need any help recognizing a white wine versus a red wine. They look different and they certainly taste different as well. But its worth your while to understand why these types of wine look and taste so different. The culprit in both cases: the skins, and a little something they bring to the party called tannins. Remember the word tannin and what it means, because wine people talk about tannins a lot.
If You’re On An Afternoon Picnic:
Bubbles are your friend. In general, and specifically here.
“Any sparkling is great and refreshing when you are drinking outside in the summer,” Selecman said. “But I do particularly love a crémant, which is basically the French word for sparkling wine. But basically what you are getting is something that’s a little more complex than a cava or prosecco, but a wine that’s not at the level of a true Champagne. It’s still from France, it’s bubbly, but it’s a little bit lighter in style… and price point.”
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