Most of us enjoy a glass of wine or two, but how many of us really know how to pick the perfect one? There are thousands and thousands of bottles lining the shelves with a choice of red, white and rose. Some describe themselves as sweet; some are dry. Some are full-bodied. Some are smooth. Some are fruity. How are you meant to know which one to pair with that delicious spaghetti dish or that piece of super fresh fish? It can sometimes seem a little overwhelming, and at times, intimidating, but choosing the perfect bottle of wine for any occasion can be easy. Here are some tips to get you looking like an expert in no time!
In the wine store
The first port of call should be a sales clerk, and those working in a wine store should be pretty knowledgeable. Don’t be intimidated by them – their job is to help you to choose the perfect wine. Talk to them about the occasion or meal that you want to pair your wine with, your likes and dislikes and most importantly, the budget that you are working within. Here are a few guidelines to help you should you need further assistance:
All wines taste like wine. Each type of wine is very distinctive, so it is essential to hone in on the grapes that you like. It is a good idea to sample a few of the bottles in the lower end of your budget to get an idea of the type of wine that you prefer.
Pick a brand that you have heard of. There is a reason why some brands are more well known than others – usually because they are either spectacularly bad (so you know to avoid!) or they are good. Don’t be afraid to go for a popular choice; no one will look down on you for it.
Don’t pick a wine based on price. Wines can vary in price from just a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Okay, so some of the best vintage wines are likely to be expensive, but do not discount the cheaper wines. Some $10 bottles can be way, way better than their counterparts costing two or three times as much. You may well find that the expensive ones take you into a territory that only those with an acquired taste would enjoy.
In the restaurant
Know your budget. Before you open the menu, have an idea of the sort of money that you want to spend on your wine. A good rule of thumb is to spend around 50% more than you would on the food. If your steak is costing you $25, aim to spend approximately $38 on wine. For this price, your server should be able to find you a pretty decent wine!
Use the process of elimination to make your choice. Start by deciding whether you want red or white. Then you can begin to choose by the variety of grape. If you are a white wine drinker, a Riesling is usually a good call. If red is more your thing, a Pinot Grigio is often a fail-safe option.
Have a taste. If you are buying wine by the glass rather than the bottle, you can usually ask to have a taste of the wine before you commit to buying. Many restaurants and wine bars will offer a taster glass before pouring a full glass. If you don’t like it, don’t be afraid to ask for a different one.
Which type of bottle do you go for?
So, you’ve negotiated the minefield of actually choosing a wine, but they’ve all got different tops.Which one should you go for? Well, it all depends on what sort of bottle it is.
Cork: Corks have always been the most traditional way of sealing a bottle of wine, but while it does create the perfect environment for aging wine, it does have its downsides – the main one being the age-old issue of corking. If the cork degrades or is damaged, it can spoil the entire bottle.
Synthetic corks: These are beginning to replace traditional naturally occurring cork tops because they won’t break down and spoil the wine in the same way.
Screw top: These are rapidly gaining in popularity due to their convenience. They’re not designed for wines that are meant to be aged, but are perfect for taking out and about on picnics and for parties, as they can be opened without the use of a corkscrew and can easily be resealed if there is any wine leftover – although, who has leftover wine?!