It can be quite intimidating to select wine. Whether you’re at a restaurant, or standing in front of a long row of bottles at the corner liquor store, the sheer number of choices can make you think, ‘Which one is the best?’ or ‘How are they different, anyway?’
Here is a simple guide to help you narrow down your choices and decipher the labels of the wine bottles. After this article, you’ll feel more confident about picking a wine to match your dish, or talking to the sommelier.
First decide if you want a white wine or red wine, a dry wine or a sweet wine, or a regular or a sparkling wine. One way to know your preferences is to try one glass of each variety (not in one sitting, though!) and take notes. Which one did you enjoy? Why?
As you become more aware of your wine preferences, you can understand the ingredients at work. For example, there are low tannins and high tannins wine. Tannins are from the skins and pips of grapes, and are often found in red wines. Tannins tend to leave a bitter taste, but are also what makes wine so healthy.
You can also tell the difference between short palate and long palate, or how long the wine’s taste and scent linger after you drink it. High quality wines have a long palate.
All wines have acid content, because it’s the acid that helps preserve it and adds that little ‘oomph’ that makes you pucker your lips. The acid level is a delicate balance though: too little acids can make it spoil and will generally lead to a bland wine, but too much will make it unpleasantly sour. Generally wines with higher acids tent to have a tart taste. Oh, and acid content also affects other aspects of the win’s flavor, bringing out the notes of the herbs and fruits.
Another aspect of wine is ‘body’ or the alcohol content. Anything lower than7.5% is classified as a light bodied win, while anything beyond 12.5% is a full bodied wine.
Wines are also classified by how they are stored. The ‘heavy oak’ wine were aged in barrels, and the material (which can include cedary, lumber and plywood) affects or transforms the flavors.
Photo from duke.edu