Have you ever purchased a few bottles of wine at a great little winery, where you had a wonderful tasting experience, just to realize six months later when the shipment arrives, that you really don’t like the wine you purchased? Sadly, that has happened to me, more than once.
I enjoy drinking wine, but I know little to nothing about choosing a good wine. Once the bottle is open and I taste it, I either like it or I don’t. I tend to equate good or bad with the overall experience, and not necessarily with just the taste of the wine. The people I am with, the place I am in, the food I am eating and even the glass the wine is served in have a definite influence on whether or not I like a wine. So, what makes a wine good? Are all ‘good’ wines expensive? Do all good wines come from France, California, Germany? What kind of grapes make good wines? If it is highly rated will I like it? When is the right time to open the bottle I just purchased? At this point, there are more questions than answers.
It would take a lifetime of study to answer all my questions, but I can gain a better understanding of what I like, why I like it and what to pair the wine with by paying closer attention to the details and endeavoring in a little education.
My first step was to install Vivino on my phone. It is a user friendly, free app that shares information about wines. I took a photo of a label from a wine that we frequently have at home and the app produced the review below. I was most interested in the third page which shows the taste characteristics, because I usually describe red wines that I like as bold, slightly fruity, slightly dry and smooth. After looking at the characteristics and reading a few reviews, it makes sense that I like this wine. I don’t love it, but I like it and can usually find it at a price much less than advertised here, which makes it a nice ‘go to’ when I want something easy to sip. I repeated this exercise with a few other wines that I like and have the data saved on my phone for when I go wine shopping. If I can’t find the exact wine I want, I will be able to match something similar in taste and price.
The app also works for wine menus, which is very helpful, and should keep me from ordering a high priced skunky wine to go with a great dinner. Does expensive even equate to good, or is good a value based on preference? So many unanswered questions on my mind…
As luck would have it, I recently stumbled onto the blog, Buddha Walks Into A Wine Bar, written by a couple who know a lot about wine and have even written a book on the subject. I left a comment on a post and Dr. B responded with words of encouragement and a suggestion to go to My Vino Type and answer a few questions to determine my wine profile. I followed his advise, and while I don’t entirely agree with the results, I do find the summary interesting. I have highlighted the parts that resonate with me. The take-a-ways I received are 1) I generally know what I like and 2) I am not likely to explore far beyond self-imposed boundaries. Sounds a bit rigid, doesn’t it? Hmmm, maybe it’s time to step out of my comfort zone.
My Vino Type
“You are towards the top end of the scale in terms of your sensory sensitivity. In general, you tend to picky – the more CONTENT of you don’t want to stray too far from the wines you know you love, and the more ADVENTUROUS of you love to explore and discover all sorts of new wines but with very clear preference parameters”. It is very likely you cut the tags out of your clothes and may have a really hard time finding the right sheets and/or pillow cases. Other people turn the television or stereo up too loud for you and the thermostat is almost NEVER right! You are also quite likely to be a tea lover. It is also very likely your mother had morning sickness with you (and if you are a male it is almost guaranteed)! You most likely played solo sports, but if you were on a team, you were often times the captain or leader.”
Wine Enthusiast Magazine is another good place for information if you are looking to broaden your knowledge of wine. They have hundreds of great articles which discuss topics from grape varieties to understanding tannins. I think it is a good place to start when learning from square one (like me) and I will be posting a few articles to Pinterest for future reference. Speaking of pinning…
Food Pairings Cheat Sheet
Pairing food and wine is something I admittedly leave to chance much too often. Red goes with meat, white goes with fish is about the extent of my knowledge on this subject, so I was ecstatic when I found this handy guide from California Wine Club which takes the guess work out of it.
- Match hearty foods with hearty wines, and lighter fare with light bodied wines.
- Rich dishes can benefit from either the contrast of a high acid wine that cleanses the palate, like Pinot Noir, or a rich, buttery Chardonnay the complements the flavors.
- Spicy dishes shine with fruitier, sweeter wines.
- Starchy potato, rice and pasta dishes call for high acid wines, like Barbera.
- Beef and other rich meats, like duck, love high tannin wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Tannat.
- Lighter meats, like Pork or even Tuna, are complemented by Pinot Noir.
- Acidic foods, like goat cheese, pair well with acidic wines, like Sauvignon Blanc.
- Serving a wide variety of foods? Sparkling wine, dry Rosé, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Merlot, dry Riesling, unoaked Chardonnay, Viognier and dry Gewurztraminer are all food-friendly wines that will enhance many dishes.
- Sweet desserts pair best with sweet wines or dessert wines.
Education underway, the next plan is to set up a tasting, at Dr. B’s suggestion, to experiment with how the taste of wine changes with the addition of salt, lemon, etc. to the foods we are sampling with our wine. That will likely happen in April, when it is safe to have other ‘fully vaccinated’ friends over.