Wine is an eternal quest. Like us, it lives, breaths and changes. But also like us, some wines are in better shape than others. Wine is a curious topic, because there’s so much that’s unknown and so much that’s just wrong. At the end of the day, it’s fun to look fancy and knowledgeable, so here are a few tips to buy and drink wine like a fine connoisseur, on any budget.
Age Is Crucial
Consider asking a wine store clerk what’s “drinking well now” if you want to drink something sooner than later. Asking questions makes you smart, not dumb. White wines are primarily meant to be consumed young. Translation: Buying a 2015 white wine and drinking it in 2018 is usually totally normal for most wine. But many red wines, especially those made in Europe are optimal after a longer resting period. The finer the wine, the more this is often true.
More Than Price
A $50 wine will usually be better than a $5 wine, but once you hit $10 and up, there’s no guarantee paying more will get you something that tastes better, unless you know what you’re buying. Don’t hesitate to ask a passionate shop worker for recommendations based on what you enjoy. When it comes to ordering online, most wine clubs are terrible value. But new generation clubs such as SommSelect are all about quality wines and are hand picked by top sommeliers.
If you want amazing wine at a better price point, you’ll often do best to branch out. Bordeaux’s and Napa Cabernets will always demand a crazy price point, because everyone knows they’re good. But offerings from South Africa, Lebanon, Chile – even Spain are often far undervalued. Don’t be afraid to discover new parts of the world. Being a wine connoisseur is about trying things, so this is a great first step.
Since everyone is on their phone anyway, you won’t look at all suspicious Googling the wines you’re considering. Sites like CellarTracker and Vivino show both user and expert feedback on wines, giving you an idea of what you’re in store for. You may find that the one with the cooler label tastes like stale mouthwash, while the boring looking one thats cheaper has won awards and is drinking well above its price point.
If you really get into wine, collecting is fun. And it’s not just about seriously expensive stuff. Many of the worlds best wines were affordable at one point in time. If you find something you love, ask how long the drinking window is, and consider buying a couple extra bottles to “lay down”. Not only will the wine change over time, it’s great to relive fond old memories from the last time you tried a specific wine.
From The Stem
If you want to look sophisticated, don’t hold the sides of the wine glass to drink. Hold the top of the stem. Temperature really matters with wine, so holding it by the glass will affect your drinking experience. Only cup the glass with your hands if the wine is too cold. This is a problem most common on planes.
Temperature Is Key
Red wine is often consumed too warm, and white wine often too cold. Red wine is generally served between 60-65° F. That’s just below room temperature, FYI. The lighter the grape, like Pinot Noir, often the colder in that range the better. White wines do best around 50-55°F. Too much time in the freezer (we’re not judging) will mask too many of the exciting tastes in a decent wine.
The first thing anyone who knows about wine does is observe the color of the wine, swirl it to see more of the color and then take a nice big whiff. Smell is a key component to fancy wine tasting. If you’re already intimidated – don’t be. There are no wrong answers in wine. As you smell and taste, throw out words or memories that come to mind. “Cigars, cherry and indian cooking spices” may be a fully correct answer. Don’t be afraid. Anyone who judges isn’t worth their glass of wine.
The only thing better than a fantastic wine is an even better pairing. But how do you pair, you may ask? Berry Bros & Rudd, the wine merchant to the Queen of England has an awesome guide. You can figure out what to serve with just about any meal. If it’s good enough for the Queen, we hope it will suffice for you.
If you’ve managed to find a reasonable (or unreasonably) priced wine with more than a few years of age on it, time in open air does wonders. Even if you don’t have a decanter, simply opening a bottle will help the wine to reach its potential. Opening a 2001 bottle of wine and consuming it straight away will strip you of so many interesting characteristics and flavors.
Did you learn anything?