Can you recommend a good wine, or what wine should I buy for dinner or can you recommend a good wine for a gift? These are all questions I hear a lot. Technically yes I can recommend a wine to you that I think is good. What “I” think being the operative word. Yes some wines are better quality than others. Yes the wine professionals out there have a way to measure quality, it is called BLICE: Balance, Length, Intensity, Complexity & Expression. But see I lost you there right. Even if you tasted a high quality wine that 95% of experts believe is outstanding quality, you may not like it. A good wine to you is different than a good wine to me. A good wine to you may change as your tastes grow. The first wine I drank was Boones. I loved Boones, it was fruity, sweet and delicious. Now if I see Boones it better be in Sangria, because otherwise I don’t like it, it tastes like juice to me. My tastes have changed, I like dry wines, pretty much exclusively.
So how is this helpful…I still have not recommended a good wine to you and you still don’t know what to buy for dinner. However in this post, I am not going to recommend a wine to you (insert sad noise here). I want you to discover what you like about wine and what you don’t, so you can learn to recommend good wine to yourself.
The best way to learn about wine is to taste it. The more you taste, the more you will understand what you like and don’t like. Really why drink things you don’t like right? In my WSET Level 3 class we tasted over 250 wines (18 wines/week over 14 weeks), we spit of course. I learned how to decipher quality and my personal preference (the two aren’t always the same). But when buying a wine I go with my personal preference every time.
I am going to walk you through three simple questions and give you some homework to try to answer them. I hope you have some fun with the homework suggestions, grab a couple of friends to do this with. Talk over each wine; they may taste it differently than you do and it may uncover some different flavours for you.
- Do you prefer white, red or rose?
- Sounds simple, but by answering this question you have narrowed down your choices considerably (and there are so many choices).
- Homework: If you don’t know, go to the store, pick one vineyard (i.e Quails Gate or Michael David) and buy a red, a rose and white wine from that vineyard. Try to stick to the same price point as well for all 3 bottles. Which one do you like better and why? Rate them.
- It is perfectly acceptable to like all three, I know I do.But what do you like about them and what don’t you like.
- Do you like your wine to be sweet or dry?
- When I ask people this, they ask what does dry wine taste like.Really it just doesn’t taste sweet.
- Homework: Go to the store, pick a grape style (Riesling from Germany is a good one to start with) and pick two bottles. One with an alcohol percentage around 8% or 9% and the other bottle 12% or higher. The one with the lower percentage of alcohol will be a sweeter wine (it will have residual sugar). Which one do you like better? Why?
- What does the alcohol percentage have to do with sweetness? Sugar + yeast = alcohol + heat+ CO2. So the higher percentage of alcohol means more of the sugar from the grapes was converted into alcohol making it a “dryer” wine. (Hint hint…if you like dry wine…pick ones with a high percentage of alcohol)
- Do you like it to taste fruity or savory?Do you like it to taste like apples, peaches, strawberries or blackberries? Or do you like it to taste more like butter, bread, dirt, spicy like pepper/cinnamon, or like leather?
- I may have strayed into a bit of wine speak but if you think about some of these words when you taste the wine you may find these flavours/smells more prominent.For example, Pinot Noirs often have an earthy (I use the word dirt) taste to it. In the best possible way of course, gotta love me some Pinot Noir.
- There are so many factors that play into the fruitiness or savoriness (is that a word) of a wine (i.e. grape variety, climate, wine making technique,age , etc. ) So really it is something to always keep in mind when tasting all wine…what flavours are you actually liking in the wine.
- Homework: Pick out two chardonnays, one that has been oaked and one that was unoaked. It usually will say on the label. If possible try to stick to the same Vineyard, otherwise pick wines from the same area of the world (i.e. Napa Valley, Chablis France). Which one do you like better? What flavours do you like out of each?
Feel free to comment back to this post about any of the wines you tasted and what flavours you pulled out. What you liked and didn’t like.
Remember to please drink responsibly (or spit). Do not drink and drive.