Whether you are out on a date with a special someone, on the lookout for a bottle to bring to a friend’s dinner party, or you are simply in the mood to unwind after a long day, choosing the right kind of wine makes all the difference.
However, when it comes to scanning liquor stores and grocery aisles to find the perfect match, not everyone has the expertise of a sommelier. With all the fancy terms, the foreign-sounding labels, corked and screw-cap differences, it is easy to get drunk and dazed without even taking your first sip.
Before you get lost in a sea of red and white, here are a few tips to ensure your next wine escapade turns out to be a breeze:
- Know your wine. That is, know the basics, at the very least. Sure, you can easily say “I will have a glass of your best tasting wine” and go on with the night. But at the very least know what you are stuffing your body with. Definitely, a Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc is not from those grapes you see daily on the table. Wine comes from the smaller and sweeter kind of grapes, usually of the species Vitis vinifera. These seed-abundant wine grapes undergo a special process called fermentation to turn the simple grape juice into an alcoholic beverage. Surprisingly, wine consists mostly of water, followed by other components that give it its natural flavor and aroma: alcohol, sugar, acid, and tannin. All these, upon the right blend of the winemaker, gives you that must-have beverage of every occasion.
- Go bold or choose light. Bright and bold red wine is often paired with the heavier and flavor-filled dishes, while white wine goes with crisp and light ones. Others call this “red for red meat, white for white meat”, for an easier recall. No matter how you see it, however, knowing that these two kinds of wine are distinct more than in color but also in taste can help you in choosing the right kind of wine for the food you want to drink and pair it with.
- Stay “dry” or be “full”. Not to be confused with a “dry mouth” resulting from the tannin-content of the wine, these terms simply mean that a dry wine has less sugar, while a “full-bodied wine” is richer in flavor, hence sugar-filled. Whether a bottle of wine is dry or full is not related to its alcohol content. A dry wine may have high or low alcohol content and the same goes for full-bodied wine.
- Take note of the time and place. More than knowing what occasion you are bringing or ordering the wine for (are you drinking it while on a date or simply sipping it out of your wine bra on a party?), it helps to know that the words “vintage” and “region” have a meaning when it comes to wine labels. Whereas vintage refers to the year the wine was made (they say the more “aged” a wine is, the better it tastes), the region is where the wine comes from. Typically, some regions produce better wine varieties than others, and when you see Napa county, it is often a top bet.
- Read the label. Do not be daunted by the labels on wines. They may seem like foreign language to you (sometimes they are!) but it only takes a bit of exposure and eagerness to learn and you will be able to decipher what are on these labels. The labels usually indicates the region where the wine was made, the wine variety, the producer, the alcohol percentage, and whether it is vintage or not (vintage wine means all the grapes used to make the wine were grown or harvested in a single year which is also usually specified on the bottle). Some very informative wine labels may also include details such as vineyard, tasting notes, history, estate, reserve, and quality level.
- Cork or screw. Although the more classic bottle caps are made of cork, screwcaps are growing in popularity. Surprisingly, wines stay purer under screwcaps than under a cork. Unfortunately, cork bottle caps can sometimes leak or cause changes in the flavour of the wine.