Things have certainly changed over the years. We no longer are satisfied with a cup of Maxwell House Coffee, or a bottle of Budweiser. Instead, our tastes have matured to the world of Starbucks, with Café Mochas, and Latté’s, and microbrew beers. So is it no wonder that not only us adults, but the younger generation also, has also embraced not only these but also the vast expanding world of wines.
Choosing wine can be very confusing whether you are standing in a wine store, a super market or on a website selling wines. In stores you usually don’t find much help, and if offered, it’s difficult to know if in fact they are really giving you good advice, or not. If you are visiting a winery, that winery is trying to sell you their wines, and more important to them, membership in their wine club, giving them constant guaranteed income.
What you need is a place to research, gain advice, reviews, and yes, to purchase wines, all at the tips of your fingertips, the world of “on-line wines”. Here you will find wine choices in every varietal, from every country that produces wine. You can read reviews, find wine ratings, and usually get some great deals on wines, and in some cases free delivery specials. Many of them also have wine tasting video’s and video guides, which can really be helpful to the novice wine buyer.
Every wine drinker, from the novice to one who has ordered a few bottles in restaurants and if lucky sipped some great wine can use some advice. Even us older more seasoned wine snobs so to speak; still learn something new. Whether it is a new wine, a new pairing or even a new gadget, there is always something to help the experience be a better one.
If a wine is going to be a good buy, and even better, a good drink, you can read the wine ratings. The only issue with relying on a wines rating, is that it tasted good to someone else, and may not to you. If you are looking for a good Pinot Noir, Cabernet or whatever, and you find a bottle rated very high, then proceed to the tasting notes. There you will find the flavors, aromas and nuances that the person rating this wine found in it. Now keep in mind that just because someone else tasted things in a wine, doesn’t mean you will too.
Also keep in mind that wine ratings are a lot like movie ratings. Like many others you may not be so quick to eliminate a new release movie from you’re “to see” list, because someone gave it a poor rating. One size does not fit all, and one “expert “ wine judge and their review, can still send you looking for a spit bucket.
Probably the best choice of wine to begin your adventure is something light and not so complicated, perhaps a white wine such as a Chardonnay, Chablis, or Viognier is an excellent place to start. With the Chardonnay’s, if possible, try to find one aged in Stainless Steel instead of oak, at least until you can start to appreciate the oak. As more and more wineries are producing un-oaked wines, many in addition produce oaked as well, you may benefit from trying both.
Temperature that you serve your white wines is very critical, in my opinion, and many wine drinkers tend to drink them way to chilled. If you in fact, take a white wine from room temperature in our house, and place it in the refrigerator for twenty minutes, you should have the wine at a good serving temperature. To cold, you loose the flavor of the wine that you should be enjoying. I will say that in the heat of summertime, chilling a bit for refreshment is fine, especially as it will warm quicker. Your whites generally are paired with fish, seafood, chicken, cheeses, or just with some super cheeses on the porch during summer months.
With red wines you probably should start with a lighter red, such as Pinot Noir or a little heavier with a Merlot. These are fairly easy to drink, with the Pinot Noir being a bit friendlier. If you can find a nice Pinot Noir from New Zealand, Australia, Oregon or California, try it, and you may just fall in love again. Pinot’s from California, in my opinion, tend to be somewhat heavy compared to say the Willamette Valley,Oregon. After you have grown to appreciate the lighter red wines, you may find it’s time to investigate more robust flavors, such as the higher tannin Cabernet Sauvignons, Syrah’s and Zinfandels. These three reds are all different in oh so many ways, yet all three possess qualities that can make you addicted to them. There is just nothing like a really good, and usually higher dollar Cabernet Sauvignon, especially when paired with an awesome steak. My Syrah’s are usually paired with red meats, including lamb, stews, wild game and boar.
Zinfandels, which more often come from Northern California, Sonoma, pair well with Italian dishes, especially homemade pasta and sauce. Another red that if you can locate you must experience when ready is Tempranillo. This should be your “go to” red when serving Paella as well as other Spanish dishes.
Temperatures for serving reds should be between 56-62 degree ranges. Most wine cellars keep their wine between 50- 55 degrees F. and are served right from the cellar. Storing your wines above 65 degrees F. will cause them to prematurely age and break down. However, during the hot summer months, There is nothing wrong with putting a chill on reds to be served as well. Maybe 10-15 minutes in the refrigerator before serving. The best of all worlds would be to have a wine refrigerator that keeps your wines at a nice 50-55 degrees at all times.
Here is your well accepted ranges for serving specific wines.
43-47 degrees F. for Sparkling wines, Champagnes, Muscat’s, etc.
48-50 degrees F. for Chablis, Chardonnay, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc
52-54 degrees F. for Beaujolais, Valpolicella and White Burgundy
57-61 degrees F. for Pinot Noir, Chianti and Zinfandel
63-63 degrees F. for Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux’s, Burgundy
The all important dance you must perform, sipping, swirling and tasting your wine is actually necessary to get the most from your tasting experience. No doubt you have witnessed someone, usually referred to as a wine snob, doing this before drinking. The reason the wineglass is often wide is so you can do just that, swirl and sniff. You are in fact aerating the wine in your glass so you can smell it before tasting. More than half of your taste comes from sense of smell; therefore in order to really taste a wine, you must first smell it. Swirling around in our mouth before swallowing allows your taste buds to gather all the info on what is in this wine.
On the next occasion where you are served a glass of wine, take your time, follow the direction above, after swirling, and bring the glass to your nose and bring in the aromas of that wine as you close your eyes, Then after enhancing your senses, take a sip, and swirl it about in your mouth, and gently swallow. Now think about all that you have tasted. The fun in being fairly new at wine, and sipping new wines with friends, is that as you hear what others taste in a particular wine, you can search for it yourself.
Keep in mind, it’s all about you, and your experiences with wine, finding the wines that you like, not what someone tells you that you will like. Experiment and find the wines you enjoy, try them with foods, and friends. Have a wine tasting party, where everyone brings a bottle of wine that they like and maybe you and your guests will find a new favorite.