For many of us mere mortals, the world of wines is cloaked in mystery. Every aspect of viticulture seems to be the territory only of the elite, but that is not actually the case. By following just a few simple tips, you can choose a vino that you will truly enjoy serving.
DON’T GO FOR THE FIRST SHINY LABEL YOU SEE
Just as you should not judge a book by its cover, steer clear of deciding on a wine based solely on a glitzy label. Instead, take some time to go to a retail shop that specializes in vinos. As soon as you walk in, you will discover that the staff are amazingly knowledgeable about the full spectrum of the products they are selling. A good salesperson will converse with you about your preferences, price range, what foods you will be serving and even the nature of the social occasion for which you are buying the wine. Only then will they give you some specific suggestions as to color and brand. While you’re there, also ask about any opportunities the store may have for customers to come in and taste some of their selections. That is an excellent, money-saving way to get an increasingly precise idea about what you like.
MAKE WINE TASTING INTO A PARTY
If you’re lucky enough to have friends who are also interested in widening their vinicultural horizons, consider hosting monthly tasting parties. Encourage each person to buy wine online or in a specialty store, do some research about it and present it to the group. Then make a running list of your favorites and what foods they pair best with to keep as a resource for future party planning and host gifts.
CONSIDER THE FOOD YOU WILL BE SERVING
When wine perfectly complements food, both items bring out the best in each other. While there are no hard and fast answers as to which wines to match with which dishes, here are some standard suggestions:
• Sauvignon blanc goes well with mild fish and chicken.
• Chardonnay enhances the flavors in creamy pastas, chowders and caesar salads.
• Chenin blanc is a great partner for lighter meats such as pork.
• Merlot’s rich and luscious flavor lends itself to rich pork and lamb dishes.
• Cabernet helps to balance strong and even gamey flavors. The acidity in this type of wine also cuts the fishier flavors of some seafood choices.
Another helpful strategy is to pick wine based on the season. Winter lends itself to heavier selections that are higher in alcohol like pinot noir and cabernets. In the warmer weather, consider opting for lighter chardonnays, chenin blanc or sauvignon blancs.
LOOK AT THE LABEL
Although the first impression a wine’s label may give is not always accurate, you definitely can tell the heaviness of the vino based on what the bottle says. If you see “oaked”, that means the wine is heavier. “Stainless steel” denotes the opposite.
Finally, don’t rely on superficial factors such as age and price to determine if a wine is of high quality. Some wines cost more simply because they are imported or because they come from a famous wine maker. In a similar vein, many wines of very recent vintage are delicious and ready to drink without requiring years in a cellar to age. In the end, the best way to choose new wines you love is to ask questions, experiment and have fun. When you do, you are sure to come up with something you love.