Contrary to popular belief, a fine wine is nor expensive nor old. Of course, there are certain fine wines which are expensive and their price is a good indicator of their quality, but this sign is far from conclusive or beyond dispute for many other wines. Wine, as most connoisseurs and sommeliers know, is a complex alcoholic beverage which must be carefully understood, examined and evaluated. Perceiving its multiple aromas, flavors, and numerous other characteristics takes years of practice and a high dose of personal appreciation.
Because of this, many people, especially those who are not familiar with wines, don’t know how to tell a fine wine from a swill. There are hundreds, if not thousands of wines on the market, and, truth be told, picking a good wine can get very confusing. Here is a short guide that will help you choose your next best wine:
- Don’t fall for the label
Yes, appearance does matter in the wine industry. A well designed and enticing label can attract a lot of customers, but that’s far from everything. Make sure to read everything on the label: the name of the wine, its origin, its year and any other information that the winery provides (pay attention to flavor, fruits, aging process used and importing details). Many wines have stamps, awards or reviews attached to the bottle itself, so make sure you read these too. If you are not sure, ask the store clerk for further information.
- The sniff
Before having a drink, all wines must be at least swirled and sniffed. This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to perform a complete tasting procedure. You’ll just have to cover the two basic rules of wine tasting: the swirl and the sniff. After a careful, but lively swirl, have a sniff. What do you smell? Is it apples, bananas, wildflowers, oak? If you smell many different aromas, chances are the wine is good. Most sommeliers focus on just three big aromas that most wines must evoke. If you can detect any three different aromas, you may have a fine wine on your hands. If the combination, however, is bad, the wine is, most likely, bad as well.
- The sip
The sip is much like the sniff… Once you let the liquid hit your taste buds, you should be immersed in its numerous flavors. Do you taste, cherries, raspberries, melon, lemons, apricots or peaches? If yes, that’s a great sign that your wine must be special. Keep in mind that the combination of these flavors must be balanced out and any putrid taste is a red flag. Also, if these flavors linger on your taste buds, it means that it is a complex, balanced wine.
- Do your homework
Telling a fine wine from a swill sometimes comes down to the digits. Knowing if a 2004 wine is better than a 2006 wine will help you tremendously when picking it out. Try to learn a few good years and regions and your set. You will soon know which years or regions are the best and you will not be fooled by a wine’s age. Keep in mind that a wine from 2007 can be a lot better than a wine from 1988. In fact, most wines are intended to be enjoyed while young, so a 3-year-old wine is most likely better than a 10-year-old wine, especially in the $10-$25 range.
As a final note, if you find your favorite wine, stick to it. If you like Bordeaux from Southern California or Pinot Noir from Oregon, keep it as your close choice for special occasions. Finding your personal style should be your main objective. What’s more, if you know and understand a few wines, you will be able to open the doors to other, more exotic varietals. A great way to expand your horizon and knowledge of wine is to ask your waiter or waitress the next time you’re out at a restaurant, such as Kasa, what they recommend. They might suggest something you’ve never tried before.