Have you ever gone to a liquor store searching for a nice bottle of wine, but instead found only a disgusted stare from the clerk when you had no clue what you were looking for?
Some time ago, I did. But after delving into the wonderful world of wine, I found out that simply asking for wine could end with you getting a bottle of just about anything. That is why I would propose that everyone learn some wine basics. This way, the next time you get back to that same liquor store, you can politely let the clerk know you won’t be needing their help anymore. Hint: this drives real wine nerds crazy.
Your common wine novice is often heard ordering their wine merely by the color; red or white. And in some cases they are aware of a Rosé. Contrary to popular belief, not all reds and whites are the same. Now that you are an adult, you should be able to pick your grown-up drink by its proper classification and not the way you picked juice when you were a child. “I want the blue juice,” is what I remember saying when I was young.
When it comes to white wines, you can play it safe with something sporting a low alcohol content and a high level of sweetness. If you are this person, you should hover around Rieslings, particularly German ones. But if you fancy more of an adventure and tend to like something with a sour snap to it, venture into the world of Sauvignon Blancs. There are many that fall in between, but they are so numerous that there is not nearly enough time to touch on all of them.
In the realm of red wines, someone who is just breaking in might want to stick with a fruity and light Pinot Noir; the kind the movie Sidewayshas made so popular. You could even sip on a nice jammy Cabernet Sauvignon. But with red wines, as you move up the ladder, you have to worry about tannins. Tannins come from the skin of the grape and in a higher concentration tend to taste like that strand that comes off of a banana peel and you accidentally eat. Some do not mind this taste, and for you I would recommend something a bit more serious like a Shiraz, which also procures a spicy flavor. Once again, as with whites, there are too many red varietals to explore.
If you are one of those people caught in the middle stage of going from white to red, you may want to consider a Rosé. These wines are made from red grapes, but have had very little contact with the skins, which hold the tannins. This produces a wine with a pinkish color and a sweeter and juicier flavor than your textbook reds. And this is where I would like to mention that you can astound your friends with a little tidbit of trivia: You can make a white wine from a red grape, but can not make a red wine from a white grape. Think about, it makes sense. Now disperse this knowledge and let everyone stare at you like you’ve got a neon green pocket protector and glasses with tape holding the bridge together.
When dealing with wine, it is important to remember that not all regions create their wines the same way. Some varietals that are created to taste one way in a certain country may taste totally different when pieced together in another country.
With white wines, there is a tendency for a milder flavor when they are made in places like the United States and Europe. For instance, in France and in many areas of the United States, chardonnay is fermented or aged in oak barrels. This creates a creamy flavor and texture for the wine. In contrast, places like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa tend to use stainless steel fermentation, which keeps the flavors crisp and more on the acidic side.
So just like with knowing which varietal you will prefer, you should also be familiar with where it is coming from and how that will affect its flavor. I know just popping any old alcoholic beverage in your mouth regardless of taste is something that everyone likes to do from time to time. But if you want to look like you know something, do your research and know your favorite varietals and wine regions of the world.
Often times when you are looking for a nicer wine for a special occasion or for a gift, people will look for the higher labeled prices. This could not be more of a mistake. If you want to start shopping smarter and stop paying more when you don’t need to, find out the quality of the products. Numerous times I have tried pricier wines that have been unimpressive and have then turned to a vastly cheaper bottle that satisfied me to the core. Just because a bottle of wine costs more does not mean that it tastes better. It just means they can fool people.
Yes, one of the best bottles of wine I have ever tasted came in with a $60.00 price tag, but a close second in the same style comes in much cheaper at $10.00. And if you devote some time to tasting around, which, by the way, many liquor stores will allow during wine tastings, you will find some amazing bottles of wine that will woo your taste buds and leave money in your wallet at the same time. This will also save you money when you buy for others. You can say that you went for quality and never even tell what the price was. Those who remain wine novices can be easily fooled into thinking that a beautiful bottle of Two Brothers Big Tattoo Red costs somewhere around $20 or $30, when it actually costs more like $8.00.
Knowing about the varietals, regions and pricing of wine is essential for anyone trying to appear knowledgeable on the subject. But even if you’re not trying to show off, it comes in handy simply for finding yourself a beautiful bottle that you can savor and know you paid a fair price for.
** My wine knowledge comes from extensive training through college and an intense course through a wine distribution company. I have worked as one of those people giving out recommendations in liquor stores. If you have any wine related questions, feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to talk wine, so don’t feel as if you’d be bothering me.