Buying wine, the first couple of times around can be a pretty daunting experience. What makes wine so difficult for purchasing mainly lies in the fact that wine is just so general when it comes to flavors. If someone were to ask “What does wine taste like?” that would be a very difficult question to answer because it all depends on a wide variety of factors including the type of wine, the age, the geographical location of where it comes from, and people’s personal preferences. When it comes to figuring out what kind of wine you like the most, that question has to be grounded with a lot of research and your own personal experimenting with different kinds of wine. That really is only the best way to choose the wine that you like and you consider to be quality wine. For you, a quality wine could be one that has citrusy notes while for another person a quality wine is one that has very sweet scents that you can pick up. It really just varies, but luckily there are still a lot of tips that the beginner can understand before purchasing and choosing top notch quality wines that they believe will suit what they are looking for. This article will by no means tell you what a quality wine tastes like nor will I explain the exact brands that are considered to be of great quality. I think quality is a more subjective person that means something different to every wine consumer; however, you can definitely rely on this article to give you some necessary information about what to consider when purchasing wine so that you are not totally helpless in the process of finding out what you like! Without further ado, keep on reading!
The Basic Characteristics of a Good Wine
Like I stated before, good and quality are subjective terms, but if you are someone who is completely lost on what you should be on the lookout for before you splurge on wine then let me break down some basic facts for you. All wine, no matter the kind, has underlying basic characteristics that people tend to take note of when they experiment and taste different wines. These characteristics are sweetness, tannin, acidity, body, and alcohol level. These characteristics will vary in their amount depending on the kind of wine that you buy, but it is important to understand what they are so that when you are in the process of choosing wine for yourself, you know what basic characteristics you like more of and which ones you like less of in your wine. Understanding this can greatly narrow down the kinds of wine that you would typically choose.
Sweetness: Sweetness is one characteristic to be on the lookout for. Wines can vary from sweet, semi-sweet, to dry which is not sweet at all. Trying out wines that vary in sweetness can help you decide whether you prefer sweeter quality wines or drier quality wines.
Acidity: Acidity is another characteristic that is important to watch out for when choosing your own personal quality wine. Wines that have a higher acidity will produce a more tart flavor. Tart is typically characterized as a subset of sour that has a fruity acidic taste to it. If you like tarty and sour tastes then you will prefer wines of a higher acidity. If you like very rich and round flavors then low-acidity wines may be where you should aim.
Tannins: Another major and common characteristic that is always talked about when discussing wine is tannins. Tannins are known as phenolic compounds which are found within the skins of grapes. Tannins that are present naturally in the grapes or added in the winemaking process will end up producing wine that is more bitter in flavor. It is important to note that tannins can also dry out your mouth, but they are not to be confused with the sweetness component of wine, which can also have drying properties when it is less sweet.
Body: In addition, wines can also be characterized greatly by their body. They can have a full body, a light body, or somewhere in between. Body typically refers to the weight of the wine in your mouth. If the wine feels pretty heavy on your tongue, then it has a full body. If it is the opposite then the wine is known to have a light body. Generally, the rule of thumb between body and wine is that red wines will have a fuller body because they tend to come from grapes that grow in warmer regions. Whites are notable for having a light body because their grapes tend to come from cooler regions.
Alcohol: Lastly, we have reached the alcohol component of wine. You can normally tell the level of alcohol within a wine based off of how much it warms your throat and the back of your mouth. The warmer your throat and back of your mouth are, the higher the percentage of alcohol is. Most wines typically fall around the spectrum of about 11-13% in alcohol but it can range anywhere from 5.5% to 20%.
The only way that you can uncover what characteristics you think make up a quality wine, is by experimenting and taste testing. Experimenting with a variety of wines can greatly help you understand what the general characteristics of wine taste and feel like, so that you can understand what you like and dislike. If you are close by you can always reserve a tour for some wine vineyards that you can check out and explore. If you do not live near a wine vineyard (or simply do not have the time), then you can experiment with wine by checking out samples. There are a variety of wine websites that allow you to sample wines by shipping mini bottles to your door for you to test out before purchasing. I highly encourage utilizing this because it is a great way to get familiar with the general characteristics of wine and figure out which qualities of wine you prioritize as important to you.
Learn the Labels
Labels are typically the number one disregarded thing when people make their purchases, but they are so integral to the purchase process. Labels generally tell you a lot about what you need to know about that specific product so that you can figure out if that product is what you need for yourself. Do not fall victim to the pretty pictures, font, or names that make their way onto a wine label. They exist to catch your eye visually and persuade you to buy the wine even if it isn’t quality wine or what you are looking for. Be smart about choosing your wine and learn to understand the information that is being given to you on that label. The general rule of thumb when it comes to labels is that the more detailed the better. Vague details on labels can be a sign that the wine may not be the best quality out there. Synthesize the information. What is being given to you? Some important info to look out for on the wine label is…
- Grape variety
- Region of the wine
- The year the wine was harvested
- Alcohol percentage
And most importantly, refer to the five basic characteristics that we went over: sweetness, acidity, tannin, body, and alcohol. Does the description of the wine give you clues about these five basic characteristics? Some wine labels may also give you important information about aromas associated with the wine so that you can figure out whether it may be a wine that you would be interested in. It is important to understand that when it comes to wine labels, things may be in different places. Wineries have agency over what kind of information they deem important to share with you, so be mindful that every label is not going to be the same. The more practice you gain with reading and understanding wine labels, then the more you are able to understand whether you are choosing a quality wine that fits your preference or not.
You Can Always Play It Safe with a Rose
Roses are known as an excellent wine choice for those who are not confident about the kinds of quality wines that they want. Roses can offer you a nice, crisp flavor that will be accompanied with a good acidity level and a lively flavor that many beginners typically enjoy. It is the more neutral wine of the other two (red and white), in the sense that it isn’t so strong and distinguished in a certain flavor. It is light, pleasant, and palatable and a great option for many who are starting out the process of choosing a quality wine for themselves. The good thing about Roses is that they can also be paired with a plethora of food dishes, especially cheese plates!
Choosing Wine with Food
If you are trying to choose a quality wine in an effort to pair it with lunch or dinner then here are some tips you can take into consideration! Remember that wine pairings should be kept easy. When choosing the right wine to pair with your food, you must first reflect on whether you want a wine that will complement your food or contrast it. Neither are bad moves and really depend on you. If you want to go the complementary route then just remember to pair like with like. In other words, rich wines with rich foods and light wines with light foods. For example, seafood and chicken are going to pair very well with crisp white wines, while hearty and more heavy foods like red meat and cheese pair a lot more nicely with red wines.
Let the App Do the Picking For You
If you feel like you really want to choose a quality wine but do not have the time to slave over research to find that perfect wine, then no problem. You can definitely take the easier way out but downloading wine apps that exist purely for doing the research part for you. Wine apps can have a comprehensive database on all different kinds of wine, their flavors, aromas, regions, and more as well as the ratings and reviews they received from wine critics and customers. It is one of the most convenient ways of targeting quality wines on your radar and weeding out the ones that simply will not do. In this world of technological innovation, there is no reason why you shouldn’t let technology do the work for you!
Sustainability and Quality
There is a good amount of people who view eco-friendly wines as a market of good quality wine. If you are one of them, then I offer you a little list of all the vocabulary to watch out for when it comes to choosing quality wines that are healthier for you and nicer to the environment. Some words to look out for in relation to this include natural, organic, biodynamic, sustainable, dry-farmed, and low-sulfite. Keeping an eye out for these words can help you figure out what kinds of wine are more environmentally friendly as well as healthier for your body! Quality can start with choosing wines that have a reduced risk of toxins so take these words into consideration when doing your next purchase.
This article briefed over a few ways in which you can help yourself get closer to the perfect wine for you. Wine can be a difficult task, but utilizing the tips above can definitely make the process go smoother and leave you feeling more confident in your purchases. No customer ever wants to feel regret after purchasing something they expected to like, so by incorporating this advice, you can ensure that you never have to feel that regret over splurging on something that was totally not worth it for you! Remember you define the concept of quality so reflect on what quality means to you and go from there. There is never a wrong move when it comes to choosing wine, so long as you like it!