4 Steps: Choose Wine

Choose Wine
4 Steps : Choose Wine

The world of wine can be a complex and intimidating place to the uninitiated, but don’t worry: we’ve got you covered with a few rules of thumb (price doesn’t always rule) that will turn you from rank amateur to, at least, skilled novice.

If you’re looking for a few pointers on wine tasting, AM has a number of comprehensive articles on the topic, including a feature on how to taste wine.

So here are our 4 steps on how to choose wine.

Step 1

So you’re stuck bringing a bottle of wine over to a friend’s house for a dinner party and have no idea what to buy or where to start.

Know what you’re eating

When pairing wines with food, you don’t need to drill down to the level of the fine nuances to make an informed choice. All you need are a few simple pairing rules.

The most important thing to remember is to pair light wines with lighter foods, such as fish, chicken and creamy sauces, and match full-bodied wines with bolder foods, such as beef, game and tomato-based pasta sauces.

Traditionally, this rule has been simplified: white wines with fish and chicken and some pork, and reds with beef and game. That’s a good rule of thumb to follow for the beginner, but with a bit of experience, you’ll find you can break the mold a little -- some nice light-bodied reds pair very well with fish and chicken, for example.

If spicy foods are on the menu, go for a sweeter wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling or Pinot Grigio. If you want a wine just for sipping, Pinot Noir and Cabernets tend to be most accessible. Finally, if it’s a white you’re after, try a Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling.

Step 2
Pick a region

Because soil conditions significantly affect the taste of grapes, a wine’s country of origin is critical to its flavour. That means that a French white can be radically different from a South African, for example.

When it comes to picking a wine region, no one’s expecting you to know the finer details that set apart French and German whites, for example, but a brief geography lesson goes a long way.

If you face a choice between old-world and new-world wines, play it safe and go old-world. Countries such as France, Italy and Germany have produced wines for countless years. It’s a safe bet to assume that the winemakers there have perfected their processes.

This, of course, is not to say that wines from South America or Africa aren’t good. They, and many other new-world producers such as the United States and Australia, make excellent bottles.

A few pointers for your travels:
  • Look for American wines from Oregon and California’s Napa and Sonoma counties;
  • France’s Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne regions produce some of the best wines in the world;
  • Italy’s best come from Tuscany -- look for Chianti in particular, and;
  • Your best bet for a good Australian wine is a Shiraz.
There are 2 more steps to take when you choose wine...

Step 3
Narrow down to a varietal

Varietal is one of those wine words that confuses and intimidates. Don’t let it. The word describes a wine made from a single grape variety, and the varietal tells you a lot about what’s in the bottle.

A quick glossary:
  • Cabernet Sauvignon is a full, rich red wine that goes well with heavier foods such as red meats, game and tomato-based pasta sauces;
  • Pinot Noir is usually softer than Cabernets, with similar characteristics;
  • Merlot is one of the lighter reds, and it’s very popular;
  • Zinfandel is a strong red that’s a Californian specialty;
  • Syrah is one of the biggest reds, and the best are French and Australian;
  • Chardonnay is an elegant white with a nice buttery taste, and pairs well with chicken and creamy pasta sauces;
  • Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp white, great for sipping on summer days and pairing with fish;
  • Riesling is a sweeter white -- the Germans make the best but the Californians are also good.
Don’t expect that all wines are made from a single grape varietal. It’s not uncommon to find, for example, Cabernet-Merlot blends.

Step 4
Pick a year

Contrary to popular belief, age isn’t everything when it comes to choosing a wine. While some bottles improve with age, not all do. In fact, most of the commercially available wines you buy may even worsen if you cellar them for too long.

When someone talks about a wine’s vintage, they mean only the year in which the wine was produced. Not surprisingly, weather conditions affect grape qualities and output to varying degrees. As a result, some vintages are better than others.

Most red wines improve with a bit of aging. However, that doesn’t mean you should buy today for a big party in 2011. Usually, wineries don’t release their reds until the bottles have aged for two years. So what’s for sale on the shelf is very drinkable.

On the other hand, most whites and sparkling wines don’t need aging. They’re ready to drink right away and can worsen if they’re cellared.

From: http://uk.askmen.com/fine_living/keywords/wine.html


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