Are you a casual wine drinker who regularly feels a bit lost when trying to choose a quality bottle? You’re not alone. With so much choice and essential information sometimes hard to come by, shopping for a nice wine can often prove to be challenging.
If you’re not clued up on what to look for, there’s a good chance it’ll result in you making a decision based on how the label looks — millennials are four times more likely to do this than baby boomers, according to Gallo Wine Trends. Unfortunately, some flashy images and text often mask a cheap product, and you could end up with a poor-quality wine.
To help you out the next time you shop, we’ve put together a few tips for picking out a great bottle of wine. Read on to find out more.
Learn how to read the label
We’ve mentioned how influential a label can be but, if you look closer, you can find some clues that point to the quality of the wine inside. There are three things you should always check for on a label: the vintage, region, and grape variety, as they’ll help you identify where the wine was made.
If all three are included, there is more of a chance that it was made using carefully selected grapes from a particular harvest, which usually equates to a better-quality product. However, if the label is vague about these details, it’s likely to be made with below-par grapes sourced from all over.
You should also look out for regional or national seals that indicate that a wine has been produced in accordance with regional requirements, which are prominent on old world wines. Bottled & Boxed have some useful wine guides that list these for each country, like France and Italy, so be sure to check them before you shop.
Know what you want to pair it with in advance
Before you start shopping for a new wine, it’s worth thinking about whether you’ll be pairing it with food for a meal, as some wines will complement certain flavours better than others.
For instance, these pairing tips from Decanter recommend that you don’t match delicate tasting wines with a meal full of bold tastes, as you won’t be able to enjoy it as much. Additionally, they also recommend salty food, such as smoked salmon, be paired with acidic wine, like champagne, for a balanced flavour. These are just two of the rules to consider, so take the time to do some research in advance.
Don’t be fooled by a wine’s age
There’s often the belief that the older a wine is the better, but this isn’t always true. In fact, many wines are produced to be enjoyed right away. So, if you are purchasing a bottle to be enjoyed drunk in the short-term, it’s worth remembering that you may be missing out on a younger wine that will taste much better than an overpriced aged product.
Apart from the age of the wine, there typically isn’t much detail on the label to indicate when it should be enjoyed. One way to navigate this issue is by using a website like Cellar Tracker, which keeps an extensive database of different wines and when they should be opened. Other than that, you can always shop at a specialist shop or website, where they can offer a recommendation.
Practice the ‘swirl and sniff’ technique
There’s a good chance you’ve seen someone use the ‘swirl and sniff’ technique before they take a sip — check out Wine Folly’s tutorial video if you’re unsure. It might look a little elaborate, but there’s some science to back up these methods. The swirling motion gets the wine particles moving, which improves its scent. There’s a lot you can tell from the smell of wine: watch out for really distinctive flavours coming through, which is a hallmark of quality vino.
For the actual tasting, take a small sip and then move it around your mouth for a few seconds. You’ll want to watch out for complex flavours once more, as well as a nicely balanced taste that isn’t too acidic. Good wine will also have a pleasant aftertaste that can linger even after you’ve swallowed.
Follow our advice and you’ll be able to choose a great bottle of wine the same way that the professionals do. Then, you can enjoy it knowing you’ve made a great decision.