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The Best Wine Buying Guide
Most people enjoy the occasional glass of wine, or perhaps more than on "occasion", but in truth, wine can be a fantastic hobby. There are many different kinds of wine, and there are a variety of techniques, equipment and knowledge behind the art of enjoying wine. So, do you wish you could drink wine like a pro but never know what to buy or how to properly care for it? Allow this to be your guide.
How To Read Wine Labels
Wine labels can seem a bit confusing at first, but they tell you what you really need to know about the contents of a bottle. Different states have different laws when it comes to alcohol labels (for example, California has supplemental labeling laws that require more information), but there are certain features that are mandatory on all wine labels, no matter where the wine is sold.
The first thing you should look for is the brand name, which is easy to find because it is often in the biggest or clearest font. If for some reason there is no brand name, then the bottler's name can be considered the brand. You will see this following the words "produced and bottled by" You should then take note of the wine type, which is exactly what it sounds like (examples of wine types would be "Chardonnay", "Pinot Noir", "Cabernet Sauvignon", etc.)
Now for the more complex aspects of wine labels: many also contain the geographic location of where most of the grapes came from, also known as the "appellation of origin".
The wine is usually finished in this geographic location as well. Then there's the year the wine was made (or rather, the year the grapes were harvested), also known as its "vintage". For this, it is important to stay updated on wine news, because the quality of the harvests varies from year to year. For example, 2009 was a great year for grapes in California, and so many of the California wines with that vintage are considered higher quality. Also, if a wine label says, "estate bottled", that means the winery grew all of its own grapes and produced the wine entirely on their land.
Other important things to look for are the "declaration of sulfites" (wines with 10 parts-per-million or more, sulfur dioxide will say "Contains Sulfites") and the alcohol content, to help you determine whether you personally want to drink or serve a particular wine.
How To Properly Taste Wine
Tasting wine is not the same thing as drinking it. While you will usually down what you taste, there is a special technique to tasting wine that allows you to fully take in its flavors and texture. Follow and learn the following steps to ensure you taste your wine the next time you're indulging.
10 Simple Steps On Tasting Wine
|1. Use The Right Wine Glass|
The wine glass that you choose to use doesn't need to be super fancy, but it should be a clear glass and also be "oval" or "egg shaped" with a tapered bowl. When pouring your wine into the glass, it's important to note that you should only pour about 2 ounces, definitely no more than a quarter full.
|2. Look At The Wine|
Examining the wine visually is an important thing to do before you drink it. Look at the intensity of its color, as well as its clarity. Keep in mind that deep saturation does not necessarily mean good quality, white wines become darker when they have become spoiled, while red wines take on a more brownish hue.
3. Sniff The Wine
It may sound silly, but how often do you sniff a new food before digging in? Wine is no different in this regard. Smelling your chosen wine allows you to "preview" the flavors by experiencing the aroma they give off.4. Swirl The Wine
To open the wine up more and really help the aromas come out, gently swirl the wine around your glass (for beginners, it's best if you keep the base of the glass on a flat surface and just move it around in a circular motion very gently with one hand). Note that the slower the wine runs down the side of the glass, the higher the viscosity, which is said to indicate higher alcohol content.5. Take Your First Sip
Don't sip like you normally would with a soda. Hold the wine in your mouth and roll it around, giving it exposure to each section of your taste buds and thereby allowing you to detect all the different flavors. It's also important to observe the wine's texture and weight.6. Breathe In The Wine
This does not mean literally inhaling the wine, but rather "aspirating" through it. While holding the wine carefully in your mouth, purse your lips a bit and draw some air in, exhaling through your nostrils. This will expose you to more of its aromas.
7. Breathe While Sipping
Take another sip of wine and breathe in deeply through your nose while swallowing. Another way to do this is to quietly "slurp" the wine. Take notice of the flavors and the aftertaste, as well as the sensation in your cheeks. Many people believe that the length of time it lingers is often an indicator of its quality, or at the very least, its potency.8. Pair Wine With Snacks
You don't want any heavy foods or full meals at wine tastings, but having some light snacks like chocolate, crackers, and different kinds of fruits and cheeses can help you see how the wine will complement different flavors.
9. Drink Any Remaining Wine
Exactly as this sounds, drink whatever wine is left in your glass. This is helpful if you're looking for a wine to serve at a certain meal or event. Now that you have tasted it, you can experience what most of your guests will experience by drinking it.10. Write Down Key Points About The Wine You Tasted
This is really optional, and you may not be able to do so if you are at a busy wine tasting event, but this will be especially useful as you are still getting acquainted with wine. Either on your phone or on a notepad write down the flavors, textures, acidity, and anything else you noticed while tasting the wine. It's also very important that you make a note of whether you liked it or not. This will help you discover which wines are for you and which are not.
Finding Your Taste Preferences
You may already know just from taste and texture alone whether you prefer red wine or white wine (though many people do enjoy both). White wines tend to be lighter and sweeter, while red wines tend to be richer and sometimes more tangy than sweet. Nevertheless, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that "red or white" is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to selecting a wine. So, just how do you know what your wine preferences are? How do you know if you prefer fruity, sweet, sparkling, or robust?
The key to discovering this is obviously tasting a lot of different wines, but there are simpler ways to get a head start. There is an extremely wide variety of flavors in the world, but then again, there are only so many. Therefore, your wine preferences actually have a lot to do with your general food preferences. For example, if you prefer heavier, richer flavors (such as whole milk over skim milk), then you will likely enjoy more full-bodied, richer wines over lighter ones. Likewise, if you prefer slightly sour, more acidic fruit juices over those with sweeter, fresher tastes (such as grapefruit juice over orange juice), then you'll enjoy wines with higher acidity, like Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay from Burgundy, etc. On the other hand, sweeter taste preferences can indicate that you'll have a higher affinity for sparkling wines.
Wines For Different Foods
You're probably already aware of the fact that certain wines go with different foods. This is because, when paired correctly with the right foods, the flavors of wine either complement or provide a nice contrast to the flavors on your plate. This actually helps to enhance the taste of each, and it can also help bring out other unique details like aromas, textures, underlying flavors, etc. A lot of wine enthusiasts tend to pair their wine with check, follow these 3 Awesome Wine and Cheese Pairings for some scrumptious nibbles. The wrong wine and food pairing can make a meal taste bland and sometimes just plain unpleasant. So, it is important to know what types of wine go with what types of food. To make things easier, here are a few helpful charts on the types of food that go with different wines:
White Wine Food Pairings
Semi-Dry & Lightly Sweet Wine
Oaky, Medium - Full Bodied Wine
Light to Medium bodied & un-oaked - lightly oaked
|These white wines work well with fowl and game, along with most seafood dishes (particularly shellfish). Lighter spicy foods are also appropriate.||Pair with pork, fowl, and richer seafood dishes. Many red meats also make a nice pairing. Avoid spicy foods with this type of wine.||These kinds of white wines can match up nicely with tomato-based sauces and lighter spicy foods. However, they work best with lighter seafood dishes.|
Red Wine Food Pairings
Light Food & Fruity Wine
Medium to Full Bodied Wine
Full Bodied & Robust Wine
|These red wines pair up best with salty foods, as well as meats like duck, poultry and beef. Dishes with garlic-based sauces and flavors also match nicely.||These wines will work best with meats like pork, fowl, beef, lamb and even venison. Breads and pizza are also a good combination for these wines.||Stick with grilled or roasted meats with these wines, although they also complement pizza nicely. Avoid very spicy and / or salty dishes.|
Other Wine Pairings
Champagne & Sparkling Wine
"Blush" & Light, Fruity Wine
Dry, Full Bodied Ros?? Wines
|These are often served on their own, before food (if food is being served). However, it does work well with lighter foods like seafood, fruits and cheeses.||These types of wine actually go surprisingly well with many foods in Latin American cuisine. They particularly help balance out "hotter" dishes.||These wines go well with meats like beef, duck, lamb and poultry, as well as salty dishes.|
You don't have to be a genius to know that you need some kind of small appliance to open your wine bottle. Make sure to go with something that is of decent quality, because otherwise you risk crumbling up part of the cork and causing pieces of it to fall in the wine. Think we can all agree that no one wants to drink part of the cork with their favorite wine. For most people, a Traditional Corkscrew or wine key will do. However, electric wine openers have become more popular in recent years, and they can often remove a cork more quickly and efficiently than you can manually. In my opinion, I don't know why I never came up with this invention, like most women I was stubborn and always gave a good attempt of opening my own wine. This included me, twisting, pulling and yanking the cork in every direction, until hauling my husband in to come to the rescue.
Electric bottle openers are truly fantastic, I couldn't fault them personally, but I know some people feel like they lose power very quickly and have to be charged for long periods of time before using them again. So before making your purchase, check if you're able to use the electric bottle opener while its plugged in and charging.
From our collection of wine bottle openers, my favorite is the Epicureanist Electric cork screw and foil cutter. Its sleek and modern design will compliment any kitchen or mini bar d??cor. If you suffer from arthritis or just lack strength in your arm, this device will manually remove any obstinate corks. Another option is a pump-style wine opener, but these do not fit on every type of cork and sometimes take extra effort.
If you don't plan on drinking a bottle all at once, which is very likely, you should invest in a few wine covers or caps. These are usually made out of a type of cork, metal, or plastic, and they are basically just plugs that keep your wine from spoiling while you drink it intermittently.
If you're serious about wine, it's highly recommended that you look into getting a decent Wine Cooler. Wine bottles should be stored on their side to keep the cork moist and prevent air from leaking in and also at the correct temperature and humidity level. A wine cooler provides this environment, while your average refrigerator does not. The good news is that there are many different kinds of wine coolers, and many are compact enough to not take up much space in your home. Check out our Buying Guide on purchasing wine coolers.