Choosing the right wine can seem a daunting process. Remember that you had to learn how to crawl before you could walk, the same is true when you start choosing bottles of wine, do not feel intimidated during the first steps of the wine journey.
As you become more knowledgeable choosing the right bottle of wine will become second nature. There are many resources (many of them online) to help you learn the basics as well as your local wine professional who will be more than happy to assist you with any concerns or questions that might arise.
Tips for beginners
Keep things simple by choosing wines that are easy to drink.
Understanding the basic rules that make a “Good wine” such as the level of sweetness, acidity, tannins, body, and alcohol level (most of this information can be found on the bottle label) will make choosing the right bottle of wine much easier. Identify the flavors that you enjoy.
Do you prefer a strong black coffee or a cappuccino for your daily dose of caffeine and if you are drinking juice is it grapefruit or apple juice?
If you are a strong black coffee drinker then the old-world style wines may be more appealing to your taste buds, but if you are a cappuccino drinker then new-world wines are the best way to go.
The sweetness or dryness of the fruit juice that you prefer will determine if you prefer drier or sweeter wines.
White and rosé wines are nice easy-drinking wines for beginners and generally have light and well-balanced flavors and acidity. Different studies of new wine drinkers often have indicated a preference towards rosé or sweet white wines.
It is only at a later stage that the palate evolves and more easily embraces those wines that have more distinctive flavors or dry red wines (which for a beginner wine drinker, intense wine characteristics can be very intimidating - such as strong tannins or unique flavors such as pepper that make it taste so good).
What is the occasion?
You do not need an excuse to enjoy a glass of wine. At the same time, your wine choices can be dictated by the occasion on which the wine will be served.
If you have a group of friends around, it is always a good idea to choose wines that everyone will enjoy, wines that fall into the medium range of body, acidity, and sweetness are moderate, and well-balanced make perfect crowd-pleasers.
You should also consider whether the wine will be served on its own or accompanied by food. Lighter wines are easier to drink on their own while heavier more complex whites and reds are better appreciated with food.
If you are pairing wine with a meal then a safe rule to follow is to serve white wine with lighter dishes such as poultry or seafood and reds for rich meats such as lamb and beef.
Wines can also be a part of a cocktail if so, the wine flavors are of lesser importance as they will be disguised by the other elements that are mixed into the blend.
Research the wine
Do not be tricked into buying a bottle of wine just because it has a beautiful or cleverly designed label. It is always a good idea to research wines before deciding if it ticks all of the boxes.
Does it match your taste profile? Has it been made to meet the dietary requirements of any vegetarian or vegan guests?
An important first step in choosing a wine is learning how to read the label on the bottle.
As a general rule, the more information that a label contains, the more you will learn about the wine.
A good wine label will give details such as where the wine came from, the grape(s) it contains, sweetness, and alcohol levels, as well supplementary information such as its body and tannin levels, a brief taste description, and food pairing suggestions.
Each wine label is unique and the information may be written in different areas on either the front or the back label, so you will need to learn how to decipher the information that is presented.
Quality not age is important
Do not be too concerned about the age of a wine. The quality of the wine is more important to ensure enjoyment by those who drink it.
Some wines do benefit from aging but most wines that are on sale at your local wine merchant or supermarket are sold to be drunk immediately so the age of the wine should not be a factor in your selection process.
Therefore unless you are choosing a red wine and have a choice between two different vintages, then it is only at this time that you might consider opting for the older vintage.
The closure of the wine should not affect your choice, wines with screw caps are just as good as those which are sealed with traditional corks.
The price of a bottle of wine does not dictate its quality. It is best to choose your bottle of wine based on the characteristics and flavors that you enjoy.
Do not be led astray by bottles of wine that are on sale, in many cases the wine is good quality, but can also indicate an excess of stock, the wine merchant or supermarket just wants to clear its shelves and will let go at a reduced price.
You should always choose the wines that you enjoy and then consider the price as a secondary part of your selection process. If you are new to the wine selection process, you may wish to set yourself a reasonable budget and try wines from that price range.
Choosing a good bottle of wine is very subjective and is not a clear-cut process. Do not feel intimidated by the wine-buying process. The secret to choosing a good wine is to choose the style and taste profile that you prefer and you will find the perfect bottle every time.
As your wine knowledge increases, move out of your comfort zone and experiment with new grape varieties from the old and new world, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you discover.
As with other aspects of enjoying wine, the more you practice, the easier the process will become so go forward boldly and explore and learn as much as you can about your next bottle of wine!