How to pick a winning bottle of wine

Do you feel overwhelmed when you try to buy a bottle of wine?  The process may seem daunting, however, pre-planning is the secret to finding the perfect wine.  Proper research is always key when making any purchase. Creating a list of questions to ask your wine merchant will make your wine-shopping experience that much more enjoyable, and you might even pick up some new knowledge and have fun during the process.  While you may be able to answer some of the questions yourself, do not feel intimidated to ask your wine professional to help you with any questions that you may be unable to answer.  We have put together a list of common questions that will help you take the perfect bottle of wine home every time.

What is your budget?

Good wines come in all price ranges so do not let yourself be tricked into believing that just because a wine is in a lower price bracket that it is not good quality.  Let your wine merchant know what your budget is before you start shopping so that you are guided toward the right wines that are in your price range.  

What season?

The season and corresponding temperatures will play a very important role in your choice of wine. In the height of summer, a lighter fresher wine such as a white, sparkling, rosé, or light red is preferable.  However, during cooler seasons, a rich, deep, more complex bottle of red wine will warm you up on a chilly winter evening and enhance any hearty dishes that you may choose to eat.  If you want to drink a heavy red wine in the summer then consider sticking it in the refrigerator for an hour to help it cool down.  The season is a great guide when choosing what type of wine to buy.

What color and type of wine?

There is the choice of either still or sparkling wine or both depending on the mood and occasion.  You also need to decide if you want red, white, rosé or all three types, the sky is the limit!  Sparkling wine is often associated with celebrations, however, it is perfect to drink anytime. The first sparkling wine that comes to mind is probably Champagne and along with it, the often hefty price tag.  The good news is that there are many Champagnes at very reasonable price points or if you prefer another type of sparkling wine (there are many excellent ones on the market), then ask your wine merchant for an alternative sparkling wine such as an Italian Prosecco, a Spanish Cava, or a French Crémant which are all very good and will not disappoint.

Are you drinking the wine on its own or accompanied by food?

If you are not drinking the wine with food then you need to consider wines drink well on their own. Sparkling wines and many white and rosé wines are perfect on their own.  Red wines are a bit more complex and usually pair better with food.  If you do want to drink red wine without food, consider lighter reds - Pinot Noir is the perfect stand-alone wine or a nice light wine made from the Gamay grape such as a Beaujolais.

The good news is that food and wine pairing has greatly evolved since its beginnings.  The old rule of matching food and wine that comes from the same region still rings true, however, modern times have seen an increase in the consumption of different foods from around the world which means that there are some really exciting food and wine combinations that when paired together bring out the best in the food and the wine - which is the whole point of food and wine pairing in the first place.

If you are hosting a gathering how many guests are there, are there any dietary constraints?

Dietary requirements (either by choice or by necessity due to allergies or other health complications), are becoming more prevalent and must be addressed when purchasing wine.  Ensure that you have ascertained any special needs before making your wine purchase.  Any good wine merchant will have a selection of different wines that are suitable for any type of wine drinker.  They are also able to advise you as to how many bottles of each type of wine you will need for your gathering.

What type of wine are you looking for?  Traditional, Sustainable, Organic, Biodynamic, Vegetarian, or Vegan?

We live in a society that becoming more conscious about how our wine, food, and other products are produced.  If you are one of these people who want to do your part for the planet there are many wines out there on the market to enjoy that are made in an environmentally conscious manner.

Learn how to read the label on a bottle of wine

When you shop for different products the label is always a good place to learn about the product that you are about to buy, the same is true for a bottle of wine.  Each wine label is unique and they are not just put onto the bottle to look pretty - they contain a wealth of information that will be very useful when you want to learn about the wine as well as the producer. A good label will contain information such as where the wine came from, the grapes that it was made from, the sweetness, the level of alcohol, the year that it was made, the appellation as well as supplementary details such as who made it, an aroma and taste profile along with food pairing suggestions and the best temperature to serve the wine to ensure its maximum enjoyment. 

What are Sparkling wines and how are they made?