"What's a good wine?" "I'm serving this dish...Which wine should I buy to go with it?"
If these questions sound familiar, you
either know your wines or you're ready to learn more about good
Even the Experts Miss Occasionally
Start your lessons with the wine connoisseur's secret...no one
can tell what a wine tastes like until they open the bottle
and take a sip. Honestly, do you think the collectors who buy
expensive wines and store them under the perfect conditions
never serve a bottle that tastes like bad vinegar or that has
been ruined by a cork? Until that first taste, the wine is a
There are special banquets to pair foods
with wines where the people who make the wine select dishes
to complement the flavor. Some of the food and wine
pairings are just plain awful...and they are chosen by people
who definitely know a lot about wine!
The truth is that anyone can get fooled
by a highly esteemed label or a well known wine. There are so
many factors that make a wine taste wonderful -- or awful --
that picking a perfect wine every time is against the odds for
even the most experienced wine lovers. All this should not make
you feel hopeless. It should make you relax. If you pick a bad
wine, you are in the best company.
Improve Your Odds
So what can you do to improve the odds of choosing a winner?
Like horse racing, there are steps you can take to improve your
odds. The most basic step is to start drinking wine on a regular
basis. Get to know wine. Serve wine with your meals at home
-- even if you are eating by yourself. Have a glass with dinner
and pay attention to how it smells, the color, where it's from
and how it feels as you drink it. Does it taste good, but shout
out...drowning the flavor of your hamburger? That's a strong
wine that probably should only be served with extra spicy food
or try it with a very sweet dessert. Strong wines and strong
foods make a good match. Lighter wines go well with more delicate
The rule of drinking red
wine with meats and white
wine with fish or fowl is based on that. Most meats have
strong flavors and most fish, turkey and chicken have less defined
tastes. Most reds are bolder wines and whites are more delicate.
Like any rule, this one does have exceptions. There are white
wines that are bold and sassy and reds that are no match for
a savory meat dish. You have to know the flavors you expect
from the meal and make them harmonize.
Remember, a wine doesn't need to be well
known or expensive to be good... experiment with different wines
to find out what you like. As you sample wines, take
notes. Actually write your thoughts down or you'll forget...
and include the information from the label so you know which
wines made you smile and which ones you wouldn't want to try
find the information on the label. Wine grapes don't all taste alike
and the wines take the flavor of the grape. Many wines are made
from blends of grapes where more than one grape variety is used. That's
not a bad thing, it just mixes several flavors together in one
wine. Expert cellarmasters can make a blended wine that will
thrill your taste buds. Less honest cellarmasters might mix
cheaper grapes in to have more wine to sell.
made the wine?
There are some wineries that you can count on to provide a quality
wine every time. If you consistently like wines that comes from
a specific winery...count on that label to perform for you.
If you find a label that is good one time and not so spectacular
the next, be careful when buying from that winery. Why take
Where is the wine from?
You'll want to notice not just the country but the region or
even the vineyard. Look for the information on the label. Grapes
grow in dirt and take the flavors from the ground they grow
in. Some wine regions in France
have amazing lavender fields and the wines that grow there have
a bit of lavender
in the aroma and the taste. If there are a lot of mineral deposits
in an area, that will change the taste of the grapes and the
wines. Some areas get better sun and that lets the grapes ripen
happily, grapes like sunshine, but too much sun will make them
dry and the wines won't be as good. In France they call this
Two fields right next to each other can produce two wines that
taste very different.
Even the best areas can have a year with cold weather too early,
hot weather too late, too much rain or not enough sun. A really
good year in a region can mean that even the lower quality vineyards
produce a spectacular crop of grapes. A really bad year may
make a good wine from your favorite region hard to find. If
you know that 2001 was a very good year, you can expect a label
with that date to be a good choice. If the year was mediocre,
try to avoid it unless you've sampled a wine that is an exception.
Most people who really know wine will tell
you that the wine you like is the best buy for your money. Don't
fall under the spell of wine fashion fads. Find a wine region
or two that you can depend on and a few labels you trust to
provide a good wine and you'll be the expert that people look
to for advice when they need to pick a winner...